Our new photo series “From Syria to San Diego” is meant to highlight the strength and resilience of families who have fled war.
Family stories will be shared in three parts, on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Follow us #FromSyriatoSanDiego to hear them all.
“When the fighting began in our neighborhood, our home was burned down, so we moved to a new area. We moved six times within Syria before we finally decided to leave.” – Mohamad
Life in Damascus, Syria was comfortable for Mohamad, Abir, and their three children before the war began in 2011. Mohamad operated a successful design company, but was forced to close it when airstrikes continued to bombard their neighborhood. Their children Raghad, Youssef, and Rama’s education was interrupted by the growing violence. After their home was burned to the ground, they had no choice but to flee Syria and become refugees in Jordan.
“It was so difficult for us, especially because I was pregnant at the time with my daughter Rita. I was so scared. I was nine months pregnant when we left.”- Abir
In Jordan, the family faced discrimination and found life to be very challenging. While Mohamad worked hard to support his wife and children, he was often underpaid at the few jobs he was able to find. The children were limited to only a few hours of school each afternoon. In 2014, the family applied for resettlement in a third country through the UN, and they had many interviews over the next year and a half. At the end of 2016, they received a call offering them a chance at life in the United States — but were told their flight would leave that very same afternoon. Without time to say goodbye to family or friends, Mohamad and Abir gathered their children, packed a few belongings, and set out for the airport.
“When I first came to America, I wasn’t able to work, but I learned how to sew and design bags through a local organization, and began selling them. My first priority is to learn the language well. My husband and I registered for college, and I want to get back to work and support my family.” – Abir
Upon arrival, the family was initially resettled in Arizona. In search of better opportunities, Mohamad and his family decided to move to San Diego. Abir is working hard to learn English and has plans to earn a college degree. Most of all, she hopes to see her children flourish in America by participating in activities like sports, music, and dance.
“Now I work full time as an Uber driver, eight or nine hours a day. Of course I want to return to my work as a designer, but I know that it will take time. The problem is, I don’t have a workspace here, or the equipment I need. So, in the meantime, I am making things by hand in my home.” – Mohamad
Despite having a full time job, Mohamad still makes time to design and build intricate wooden pieces by hand, spending days at a time on a single project. He says that with the right tools, he would be able to create a finished product in a matter of minutes. He is preparing to get his licensure in digital fabrication and design, and plans to reopen the design business he once operated in Damascus here in San Diego.
Both Mohamad and Abir say they came to America to give their children a better future. Through the family’s hard work, they are all well on their way to realizing their American dreams: Raghad is about to receive her high school diploma and is applying for college scholarships. Yousef is studying with dreams of one day becoming an engineer. Rama is an Honor Roll student who loves English class, and hopes to be an artist like her talented parents. She also enjoys tap dancing and playing basketball at school. Rita is in pre-K, and loves to color and play with her friends.
This family has made it #FromSyriatoSanDiego, and is a model of resilience, strength, and perseverance. They have come a long way and faced many obstacles, but together they overcame each one and still dream of a bright future.