Adopting the Aldrobe Family
*Please check the updates for the latest needs and family news!*
Please, meet the Aldrobe family: Adel, Faten and their SIX daughters!
Adel Aldrobe fled Syria in 2013 when his homeland sadly didn't feel safe enough for himself, his wife or their five daughters (now six). They spent three years in Jordan and were granted refuge in El Cajon, San Diego about five months ago. Now Adel and Faten, and their six girls all live in a tiny apartment with two bedrooms. They lack several necessities and are now indebted to the government for their flights to the US. Their meager government and non-profit funding will expire soon, so we'd like to help them get on their feet to start their new life here in America.
The family is very friendly and gracious. Adel and Faten welcomed all of my kids into their home and offered us fruit, tea and dinner. They hugged my kids, played with them and tried to chat the best they could. They said they would welcome anyone who would like to meet them, as what they really need are new friends in this foreign place. They also wish for people with whom they can practice their English!
Adel worked in a medical laboratory in Syria, so he's entering the medical field in the US. He's almost finished with a training program as a medical assisstant, which he says is very easy except for the English! He and his daughter are studying and hopefully graduating together in a few months. They'd love to get jobs in Orange County when they've had more training and practice with their language skills.
The Aldrobe family has been through a trial I cannot imagine putting my family through. They offered us warm smiles, but I saw Adel fight back tears when he described Syria and the beauty that has been lost there. He is proud of where he's from and misses it greatly. It's my goal to make Adel and his family feel like they have hope and a place here. I'd love for them to know how many people are rooting for them and want to help them in this crisis.
Lastly, I want to emphasize that I don't want to "adopt" this family on my own. There is no way I could afford to do that or have enough time to invest fully in this family. I'd love for any friends to come with us to visit, create relationships with the Aldrobes, offer employment networking or drop a note with a picture for them. If you donate or want to say hi, can you please message me a picture and a note for them? I know they would appreciate it.
Thank you so much for your help whether it is with a note, a donation or goods. I'm looking forward to working with friends, family and strangers to demonstrate the kindness that I truly believe lives in all of us!
1. Who Am I? My name is Lindsay Donaldson, and I am a volunteer with Heart4Refugees, a nonprofit organization based in San Diego that seeks to ensure the 1000 Syrian refugees who have been resettled here are supported during their transition to new lives in America. ( https://www.facebook.com/Heart4Refugees/?fref=nf)
2. Where am I from? Orange County, CA
3. How do I know the Aldrobe Family? They are my "adopted" family! I met them in December 2016 when Heart4Refugees offered the chance to "adopt" a Syrian refugee family and help purchase and deliver items on their holiday "wish list." I was very happy to volunteer. It is my hope that our relationship will continue, and I will be able to offer not only financial help but also the comfort of a supportive friendship as they navigate life in America.
4. How will the funds will be used? In addition to providing the needed items specified by the Aldrobes this holiday season, I will be using the funds to help meet their needs (clothing, food, medicine, other household goods; car repairs; bills and rent, etc) until they are gainfully employed and more financially independent. Depending on the amount of money raised, I may be able to support another refugee family--or families--who are also in need, as coordinated by Heart4Refugees.
5. Will funds be given directly to the family? No. Heart4Refugees strongly recommends the funds be used on the family's behalf rather than being delivered directly to the family (for example, it is better to pay rent to the family's landlord than it is to just give cash to the family). This way, volunteers can coordinate to ensure the maximum number of families get what they need.
The Aldrobe family STILL hasn’t found a job. They’re STILL $1000 short on rent every month and I’m out of GoFundMe money (see updates here if you’re wondering where the money went). There have been three VERY promising jobs (including one for which we were all about to drive to Petaluma and move them to a dairy farm this weekend!) that have fallen through and each time it feels like I’m losing hope along with Adel, though he smiles and says, “We not to worry - we have family.” The girls don’t seem affected. I think Adel protects them from any more stress in their lives (apart from moving to a new country, learning a new language, adapting to poverty, people yelling at them on the bus, etc).
They still walk arm in arm with their mom everywhere we go. They’re still laughing and carefree when we visit. They talk about school and poems and Arabs Got Talent (and I’ve now learned the word ‘habibi’ because IT IS SERIOUSLY IN EVERY ARABIC SONG ON EARTH). Adel and Faten say that Retal (3) asks for Lucy every day, increasingly when we haven’t visited in awhile. They invited us to spend time with them last weekend because Ramadan is approaching. After all, we’re their only family here and holidays are meant to celebrate with family.
This is where it’s getting hard. In the beginning, Syrian refugees were a “sexy” news story. Everyone wanted to help and the money came pouring in. Now it seems like people are tapped out of energy and money, although I know they still care.
I’m in a Facebook group for all the adoptive families like myself and I’m finding that this is pattern for MANY of us. I’m constantly reading posts that say something like, “I’m out of money and we don’t know what to do,” or “the father in my family is totally blind DUE TO TORTURE BY THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT...so any suggestions for a job?” I keep asking myself what would have happened to all of these families before now, let alone after we’re all tapped out. Some sponsor families are (understandably) detaching themselves because the burden is too much and they feel like there’s nothing more they can do.
People keep asking me, “so what will happen to them now?” The truth is, I don’t know. I do know, however, that I’m going to stick with them. I adopted them thinking we’d become good friends, but the Aldrobes were the ones who immediately labeled me ‘family.’ “You are our family now,” they said, “We will not see Faten’s mother again.”
I feel stupid saying this (and, believe me, I felt VERY stupid saying this to Adel on Saturday), but Dave and I are leaving for Europe on June 1 and I am worried about paying their rent portion before we go.* When I told them, we had all just climbed into my car, (which is too big for us, but big enough for them) and their car (which is too small to hold them all) and they’ve seen my big house and now my Europe trip and I felt like a schmuck for not sharing enough.
Anyway, I’m asking for help again. Adel is still determined to work (and it’s a lot more complicated than ‘just walk into a Starbucks and get a damn job - trust me), but we need a little more money for the month of June. If you could give just $5 or $10, I KNOW we could make it through this month again!
The thing is, I keep having this thought when I’m spending time with this family. When I watch how kind the girls are to each other - how the older girls carry the baby like they’re her mother - how the teenagers walk holding hands and the ten year old snuggles her dad whenever he’s close - I keep thinking about how it should not be a question of whether we want families like this in the United States. In reality, we need them here. Adel is the one I called when I was having a hard time with my daugter’s attitude and emotional issues. When I was at the end of my rope, I thought to myself, “who do I admire as a parent and whose kids are what I’d love my kids to be?” It was the Aldrobes. Of course he called me three taimes after that to see how she was doing. When Adel said that we all eat a sandwich differently (lol- I was eating my falafel like a taco), but we’re all accomplishing the same thing, he was referring to religious diversity. He truly does not care how people worship - just that they love one another. And we need that here. We need them here.
Please, help if you can. You can donate on GoFund me or get a tax deductible donation if you coordinate with me and donate directly to the Heart4Refugees organization, in which case they can allocate your donation for the Aldrobes’ rent.
As always, we need some staples that I can pick up or you can ship directly to them from Amazon, including:
All-purpose spray cleaner (kitchen and/or bathroom)
Thanks, everyone, for adopting this family with me! I’m really relieved to know that I have an entire of army people holding the Aldrobes up and that they’ll always be cared for. I’ve told Adel several times - if we were in the same position, I’m positive he’d do the same thing for us.
Instead of my family I brought my trusty friend, Steve. I needed someone to help deliver their new (used) car! I kept thinking about Oprah Winfrey driving up and saying, “YOU get a car and YOU get a car!” as if I had bought it or done anything to get it to them. In fact it had been donated by my friend, Jennifer, driven from Arizona to California by her friend, Amy, left at Amy’s mom’s house for me, and picked up by me and Steve on our way to San Diego. GoFundMe donations paid for the repairs and insurance for the next few months. So many people made that happen. I love this.
Faten cried when she saw the car. [13-year-old] peeked inside over and over as best she could in the dark. Adel kept repeating, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” He told Steve that all of this has really changed their lives. The girls did not walk to school this morning.
The Aldrobes made a new friend in Steve, who promised to take them to see some of the nature sites in San Diego as soon as his wife can join them.
When, in so many words, Steve finally asked Adel about the beginnings of the uprising in Syria, after Tunisia sparked the first wave and then Egypt followed, Steve wanted to know about the community before the war and Adel kind of laughed.
Before ISIS and Al-Assad’s war and Russia and the various rebel groups battling each other for power, he had lived in a tall apartment building. Each floor seemed to have a different ethnic group, he said. There were Kurds on one floor, Sunnis on another and Jews above them. Whenever someone would cook, they’d knock on each other’s door for a sampling of the food or to insist that their neighbor join them for dinner. Everyone was ‘brother’ and everyone was ‘sister.’ When the war in Lebanon sent refugees into Syria, their apartment building community housed the needy families. They didn’t care much about religions or background in Damascus. In fact, the hateful screaming that Adel’s daughters faced one day on the streets of San Diego were one of their first ever experiences with discrimination. Damascus was peaceful.
So, when Steve asked at what point ISIS came in and changed things, Adel chuckled and said, “I don’t know. They must have fallen from the sky.” They were not part of that community and the divisions between neighbors that ensued were nonexistent before.
I told Adel again that I’d love to visit Damascus someday with Faten. He said they are really hoping to go back again someday as well.
Denise spent HOURS with us and asked things like, "what is the traditional dress in Syria?" [it's different in the north, the south, the east and the west, Adel said]; "do you or your family enjoy music? what kind of sports or activities happen in Syria?" Adel showed us pictures of falcons he and friends used for hunting and the arrows he could shoot at running gazelle. Denise used words like “queen” and “royalty” to describe the meal that was prepared for us.
I wanted to know things like When did you decide to leave Syria? How did you get out? Whose side are you on? Was Al-Assad as terrible as they say? How many family members had died and on which side?I lost count when he described nephews and uncles lost on different fronts fighting against each other.
There are not two sides in that war, Adel reminded me. There are many sides and each one is worst than the next - killing people without knowing who they are or what side they're on. Al-Assad was evil, yes, but so are the rebels and DAESH worse. Adel left after June 2012, when his body was flung 15 meters from an explosion in Damascus. He was tired of seeing violence in the streets and bodies without limbs. Less than 10 days later, he and his family were smuggled into Jordan by an illegal driver. They left their four bedroom home, "the freedom to go anywhere, do anything, to work, to study," said Adel. Here in America he has to start from the bottom, but he's doing so very humbly.
I actually felt kind of silly delivering a car full of gifts and bikes and brand new towels as if I was Santa Claus or I as if I had even paid one dime for any of it - I hadn’t. People like my cousin, Colleen, splurged at Target and my neighbor brought over the toaster. When I showed them the picture of the car that would be donated, I showed them a picture of its owner, Veronica, because I wanted to emphasize that it was my friends and family and complete strangers who had gotten these things for them - not just me. I pulled up the list of donors on my GoFundMe site and scrolled through each amount and said “all of these people want to welcome you.” Adel humbly nodded and said thank you again and again and again, translating for his wife at his side.
“You are welcome” is a phrase I wanted to emphasize when I talked about the people who were helping them. It’s stuck in my mind because “you are welcome” is the exact phrase he has texted me three times since we met. Whenever I said, “I will arrive tomorrow” or “I will meet you at 2:30” he’d reply with, “you are welcome.” He later told me that in Arabic, there is a common phrase that people use with their friends, which translates to “you are welcome,” as in, “my home is yours, or you’re welcome anytime,” I suppose.
2016 made me doubt whether we really meant this here in America. When I heard crowds of people yelling, “build the wall!” and then those crowds won power, I felt sick with fear over what would happen to the Syrian families who were already here and the ones who needed to be.
Watching the outpour of concern from liberal, conservative, republican, democrat, non-political and anonymous donors who would never be credited or recognized for their giving really gave me hope. I could scroll through their names and faces on my phone for the Aldrobe family and say, “you are welcome” from all of us - and they knew we meant it because we SHOWED it. Now I’m the one in tears. Good work, Americans. God bless us, every one ;)
Thank you, thank you, thank you. We were able to pay half of next month's rent for this awesome family and another donor covered the rest. Adel just got his license as a medical assistant and is looking for a job, but this help is much needed in the meantime. Did you know refugees are required to pay the government back for the cost of their plane tickets to America? They arrive in debt.
Today we got to meet several other Syrian families and their sponsor families at a park in San Diego. I kept thinking, "THIS is the America I want them to write home about." It was a beautiful day.
Thank you for continuing to share your/their story. You are all very inspiring to us all.
Thank you for doing this.
God bless you, Donaldsons and Aldrobes!
I am so happy to be meeting this beautiful family tomorrow!