Help Refugee Family Battle Cancer

“The most difficult part of being a refugee is the negative stigma that comes with it. Refugees leave everything behind in pursuit of a better life but often are ostracized when they get here. Since moving here, my parents have worked odd jobs and factory jobs because of language barriers and employers not willing to take a chance on them when they are educated and hardworking people. The easy part is the process of coming to the U.S. The hard part is what comes after.”

 Brandon and Lisa are starting this page on behalf of an Iraqi refugee family we recently started mentoring.

We met Zeyad, Jina, and their five children in May 2017. Before meeting the family, we learned that they live in Troy, NY and that their 5-year-old girl has cancer. When we met them, we learned more about who they are.

The family fled Iraq five years ago because of instability arising from the 2003 US invasion and subsequent power vacuum. When they arrived in the US, no one in the family spoke English. Through the help of services like the United State Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), the husband and children quickly learned English. The kids are 3, 5, 7, 10 and 13 years old. The oldest is a boy and the rest are girls.

For the past two years, the husband has worked in the laundry department at a local hotel. The school-aged children are enrolled at school and showed us their class pictures, proudly pointing out their teachers and friends.  The wife has not learned English as quickly, as she spends much of her time at home tending to the kids.

When their daughter was diagnosed with cancer, Zeyad was forced to quit his job. Because he speaks English so well, he needed to be at the hospital to help with his daughter’s treatment. He showed me a note that his daughter’s doctor had written, that said it was imperative for him to quit his job in order to take care of their little girl and that he not take on a new job for at least 6 months.

We do not know the details of the girl’s condition. She is currently receiving chemotherapy for a Wilm’s tumor. She has already had one kidney removed. She has lost her hair. We have tried to respect the family’s privacy, listen to what they share with us, and try not to ask too many prying questions.

In our most recent meeting, Zeyad told us that he is running out of money. The family receives food stamps and support for their rent, but that is all. Zeyad said that they can get by without new clothes or shoes, but that he is concerned about paying the electricity bill for the next few months while he is not working.

Any family – refugee, immigrant, native-born, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or anyone else – supporting a little girl fighting cancer should not have to be worried about keeping their lights on. We created this page and are sharing it with you in the hopes that you will agree with us. Zeyad wants to keep his electricity on until his daughter’s treatments subside and he can get a new job. But we are hoping to raise enough money to buy the family a few extras: Enough money so that they can run their air conditioning to keep their daughter nice and cool at night while she recovers from chemo. A new outfit or two for school next year. Some toys for the kids. The family’s smoke detector has been chirping for 6 weeks because they cannot afford batteries.

We’d like to give them $2000 by 6/28/17. If you live in the area and have other donations (e.g., childrens toys and clothes), please contact Lisa.

Now, the fun part: the family is absolutely lovely. When we visit, the little girls cannot stop themselves from touching my daughter’s blonde curls. They adore Elsa from Frozen. The 13-year-old boy is every bit of fabulous as you’d expect from a 13-year-old boy. Jina makes some of the best kibbeh we’ve ever had. Zeyad is a charismatic story-teller who could keep you entertained for hours. He could not be more proud of his recent American citizenship status.

This is a family that has done so much right. They are good people. They have overcome a lot of obstacles already and keep moving forward, undeterred, with optimistic attitudes and smiles.

Please help us raise some money so we can show them everything that is great about America: big hearts, generous people, and dreams that can become a reality.
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Organizer and beneficiary

Lisa Baranik 
Delmar, NY
Zeyad Alsaadi