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‹ Mn Huna: Finding Refuge in Friendship

Episode 3: We Are Telling Our Stories

February 12, 2017
Episode 3: We Are Telling Our Stories
Melanie and Emane (Houda’s mother) at the potluck where they first met in August, 2016, two weeks after Houda’s family arrived in Tucson.

In episode three of Mn Huna: Finding Refuge in Friendship, Houda begins to describe her family’s journey from Aleppo to Tucson.

Like all Syrian refugee families seeking resettlement, Houda’s family went through extensive and repeated background checks, identity verification, medical exams, and interviews with multiple international and U.S. agencies. The process from application with the International Organization for Migration to resettlement in Tucson took close to three years.

Once families arrive in Tucson, they are met by their case manager from one of the three resettlement agencies in Tucson: Refugee Focus, International Rescue Committee, and Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona. The case manager takes them home to their new apartment and a hot meal, and over the next few days they experience a whirlwind of jet lag and appointments. The resettlement agencies do great work. Any one of them is a great place to volunteer or donate if you would like to do more to help refugees in Tucson.

And if you are extremely fortunate, you will meet some Syrians. And they will fill you with coffee!

هدى/Houda: من هنا : نروي لكم قصصنا

Melanie/ميلاني: From here, we are telling our stories.

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Melanie: Hi, I’m Melanie

Houda: Hi, I’m Houda

Melanie: And you are listening to

Houda: Mn Huna

Melanie: Finding Refuge in Friendship.

Houda: Isme, Houda.

Melanie: Isme, Melanie. Today we’re going to talk about Houda’s family’s experience leaving Syria. Like many Syrian refugees they left in a hurry, leaving behind most of their belongings, their home, their neighbors: everything they knew.

Houda: I miss my country, my older sister and her baby and my friends. I was live a happy life in Syria until come the war. Like storm, it’s taking all thing with him. It’s taken my house, and my friends, and my dreams. Also taking my childhood and my memories but I am going on with life. We Syrians use wisdom. It says perhaps the evil becomes goodness. This was right for me. When the war intensified my family decided to resort to Jordan.

Melanie: Most Syrians who flee go to Turkey or to Jordan. The ones I know in Tucson, most of them went through Jordan where they spent at least a couple years there. Some, like Houda’s family in an apartment many in refugee camps, where they are living in a tent or a temporary structure for a couple of years. They go through an 18 to 24 month, minimum, process of applications, interviews, background checks, medical checks: the most extensive vetting of any immigrant to the United States. Houda’s family had applied to France, because her Father speaks fluent French and that application didn’t go through so then they applied to the United States, but they have no choice where they go. So they knew nothing about Tucson, they just got sent here. And the priority is on the most vulnerable folks, those with medical issues, young children, or a history of imprisonment or of being subjected to violence.

Houda: We lived in capitol city, Amman, in Jordan two years and a half ago. In Jordan, I graduate High School. After that it has been identified date travel to USA by International Organization for Migration. Then I make new friends in America. They are very kind and they give love for refugees.

Melanie: When refugees arrive at the airport they’re met by their case manager with their resettlement agency. There are three resettlement agencies in Tucson and they’re really focused on getting families able to survive in this country. Those first few months of heading toward survival mode and they set them up in an apartment which has really basic things. It has a couch, it has some mattresses, it has some dishes, and some basic food. That’s it. I’ve learned that those things that make a house a home aren’t really there. It takes some time for those to arrive.

One of the first Syrians that I met at the airport was Bdour who is actually Houda’s neighbor. And I met Bdour who speaks a tiny bit of English, she asked: “Is there a bed, where we are going?”

Now she’s been travelling with four children for three days: I’m sure she was desperate for a bed.

And then she asked; “Is there food?” I said yes.

She asked “Is there water?” I said yes.

And she asked “Is it free water?” and I said yes.

And then she asked: “Is there coffee?” which is about the most Syrian question possible. Syrians LOVE coffee I have learned. And any time you visit a Syrian home you’re offered coffee in beautiful little tiny cups and it’s flavored with cardamom and it’s delicious and it is integral to being Syrian.

So I have learned that any time I meet a Syrian family at the airport, I take coffee. I take Arabic coffee that’s ground with cardamom so that they have that thing to start helping make it feel like a home.

Houda: Melanie is one of the American friends. She is close to us. She is not only friend, she is person from my family. Perhaps the evil becomes goodness.

هدى/Houda: من هنا : نروي لكم قصصنا

Melanie/ميلاني: From here, we are telling our stories.

Episode 3: We Are Telling Our Stories
Emane & Melanie’s friend Bsma making Syrian coffee at one of the Syrian Sweets Sales. Photo by Creatista Photography.

Houda,   Melanie,   Mn Huna,   Refugees,  


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