Isayas moved from Eritrea to the United States with his wife, Hayat, in April 2016. He passed away tragically and unexpectedly just over a year later, on Friday, June 23, 2017, leaving Hayat to navigate a new life, a new country and a new language entirely on her own.
Hayat and Isayas are and were some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. Isayas’ genuine curiosity, palpable kindness, and unbreakable positivity were contagious – and though we cannot bring him back, by contributing together, we can support Hayat as she goes through a difficult, life-altering transition.
All contributions will go directly to Hayat. Thank you so much for your support.
The first time I met Isayas was in a little apartment in Bridgeport. There were four of us, including his wife, Hayat, and a caseworker from IICONN, the refugee resettlement organization I had just begun volunteering for. We had our first conversation – and almost every one following – while drinking dark Ethiopian coffee, a tradition Hayat brought from her home country to her new one.
At that time, Isayas and Hayat had been in the states for three months. Isayas was already deeply embedded in his new life: he worked nights at a factory, regardless of the fact that his intellect and love for education surpassed nearly everyone I'd ever known. He immediately opened up his mind to American culture, customs and politics, and was constantly seeking ways to improve his near-perfect English. And after all he’d been through – which included escaping conflict in Eritrea, making the difficult and trecherous journey to Libya, traveling across the Mediterranean Sea to Malta, and securing asylum in the United States – Isayas always had an easy smile, a quick laugh, and an incredibly open heart.
The last time I saw Isayas, it was in that same little apartment in Bridgeport. The caseworker was gone, as it was nearly a year after our first meeting, and our relationship was no longer grounded in mentorship, but friendship. Their television had doubled in size, and their grins were wide and ample. Isayas was just getting started on his American dream -- and I know he would have made it if he had been given the time.
Even if you cannot contribute, please keep Hayat (and Isayas' memory) in your hearts. Thank you so much for your support.
- Maureen McLellan
- Amanda Barkin
- Vincent Love
- Nancy Fahey
- Karen Binswanger
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