Emergency fund for refugee family
As you may know already, I have been working with the Al-Rubaye family since they entered the US as refugees in November 2016. Ahmed fled from Iraq after his father was killed while working with the US military in Bagdad during the early days of the war. Ahmed spent over ten years working towards getting refugee status for himself and his family and finally came to the US on the I-94 refugee visa with his wife and young daughter this fall. Their daughter, Ranyia (pictured above) was born during their waiting period in Turkey and has never known a day of stability in her young life. Her parents are loving and attentive and are hoping to find a permanent home with their friends here in the US.
In pursuit of that stability, they want to travel to Dallas to live with childhood friends of Ahmed's. About a month ago they pooled their resources and bought plane tickets for the whole family to travel to Dallas on February 11th, however with the Muslim ban in place, and no documents other than their I-94 refugee visa, they fear air travel.
They have been traumatized by the whole process of resettlement and find that they cannot move forward until they are close to people they know and trust from home, wouldn't we all feel the same?
In this chaotic and uncertain time, my husband Dave and I agreed that it would be best to drive them from Salem, Oregon to be with their friends in Dallas, Texas. This will keep them from trouble at the airport, and ensure they make it to Dallas with no more surprises.
We are hoping to collect a little bit of money for gas and food along the way, and if possible, a little something for them to start their life in Dallas with. 100% of these funds will go towards gas and food for the drive, and the rest will go directly to them to start their life!
Please help if you can, and feel free to ask me any questions. I will keep this page updated with our plans so that you can follow along with our trip!
Plans to stop along the way in Salt Lake City and Albequerqi are already in place and we have family and friends welcoming us at each stop!
Thank you for your help during this hard time!
Today was bittersweet to be sure, I was very excited for Ahmed and Alaa, but very sad to say goodbye. It was a busy day getting things ready, I was so busy catching up with some work that I had forgotten to go to the bank to get the cash out for them, and had also forgotten to print their tickets when it was time to go pick them up for lunch and then drop them at the train station! Luckily, my fabulous husband Dave, home from work with a sick baby I might add, ran around doing my errand for me while I took Ahmed and Alaa out for one last Shwarma lunch before sending them off. The day really flew by, and having sent them off on the train just a half an hour ago, I can't believe, after all the set-backs and crazy logistical issues and moments of doubt, we pulled it off! They are settled into their little cabin on the train and are on the way to LA where they will change trains and go on to San Antonio. They'll arrive in San Antonio early in the morning on Sunday, tired I'm sure, after a 60 hour train ride!
All afternoon, they expressed over and over again how amazed and thankful they were that we, as a community, were able to round up so much money so fast to help them make the trip possible. The trip was always going to be on a shoestring, but now they are able to feel confident that if something goes wrong between here and Texas, or if things are tough when they get there, they have something to get them started.
They are really looking forward to being with their friends, today they were more energized than I think I have ever seen them. there was laughter and smiles, which was a relief. The last few months has been hard for them here in Salem, and they simple have been depressed and afraid. Seeing them laugh and telling me all of the things they are excited about doing with their friends in Texas, I saw that for the first time since I have known them, they really had hope for the future and felt like their goals were attainable.
They, and I, continue to be so thankful for the generosity of friends and strangers alike, who came to help them at a critical moment. We don't know what the future holds, but for now we know that we are part of a network of people that will come together when they hear the call!
I've attached a few pictures from our day today (please don't share these on social media) for you! I meant to email these, but I only heard back from a few of you with an email address and the gofundme dashboard won't reveal your emails to me! Sorry! If you would rather I send this via email, go ahead and let me know.
Thank you again for all of your work and support. I'll continue to update this page as I hear more!
So much has happened since Ahmed, Alaa, Dave and I decided yesterday that without the ability to fly and no money in hand, I would drive them to Dallas, Texas. We talked through the logistics up and down and figured that the whole trip would cost about $8-900. For gas, food, a rental car for their friend who would come pick them up in Albuquerque (because I only had 4 days to complete the trip so had to stop and turn around there) and other incidentals, the trip seemed spendy, but Dave and I were willing to kick in whatever we couldn't raise on the Gofundme.
I thought we'd get $200 maybe $300 from donations and we'd foot the rest of the bill, but I was amazed and overwhelmed that so many donations came in so quickly. Not only donations but offers of places to stay, furniture and clothes when they get to Dallas, journalists who wanted to write about the trip--the whole community came out to surround this family with love and support.
Because of your generosity, we are now able to kiss all of those crazy logistics goodbye and get them a sleeper room on the train from Salem to Dallas! The train had previously not been an option because the sleeper rooms seemed impossibly expensive and the lack of privacy in the coach seating was untenable. Ahmed and Alaa are Muslim and the thought of spending the 60 hour train ride so exposed to others was very uncomfortable for them, they felt too vulnerable. In addition, they have Ranyia, their sweet 11-month-old daughter who would be a handful in the narrow coach seats. It just wasn't an option. Now, though, with your donations, they decided that the train will be a possibility! They will put up $900 from the donations you generously gave them ($900 being what we all estimated the drive would cost), Dave and I will put up the extra $195, for the $1095 ticket, and the rest of the money they will use to get on their feet in Dallas.
Ahmed is anxious to get there and start looking for a job, and Alaa is excited to be with women from back home to navigate her new life with.
I will still be sending out updates to all of you about Ahmed, Alaa and little Ranyia as they start their next phase of life, but you won't be subjected to an unending barrage of pictures of all of us sweaty and cranky in the care somewhere in the middle of Utah ;). Instead it will be pictures of a happy baby crawling through the train cars, and then a family newly arrived into the arms of old friends! Expect your first email after I drop them off at the train station on Thursday afternoon!
For now, I've attached a sweet picture that my mother-in-law took of them when they were over for dinner around Christmas. This is the awesome family you helped, and I hope that as you move through your life in the next few months you'll share their story with people around you and remind them that refugees are people and families, just like ours and they deserve dignity, safety, and stability.
Thank you again, in these truly dark times you have been a bright spot in this world. The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity and deep emotion for many of us. That this ban on Muslim refugees, came only 24 hours after the 72nd anniversary of the holocaust, made impossible not to think back on that wave of Jewish refugees looking for safe stable homes in the US after living through terrible persecution. It was a heartbreaking realization that today’s refugees, denied entry by Trump’s ban, have lived through the same terrible persecution and come seeking safe stable homes in the US, only now to be sent back to the horror they just escaped. These were the dark thoughts I had as I put together this Gofundme yesterday, but, as I watched your donations add up over the past 24 hours, and as the offers of help came rolling in from every corner of the US, I was hearted by another thought: if we had been there 72 years ago, I know that we would have been the people that reacted with empathy and worked quickly to form networks of support to ferry those people to safety. I know that, without a shadow of a doubt, because we’re doing it right now.
Well, quite a bit has happened since we decided the safest option was to drive from Salem to Dallas, we have dinner and accommodations ready for us in Salt Lake City thanks to my wonderful brother and his wife. In addition, Ahmed and Alaa's friend in Dallas will be able to meet us in Albuquerque to ferry them the rest of the way.
I will send you all updates with pictures via email from the road! Ahmed and Alaa do not like to have pictures up on the internet of themselves, so I will create a private email group to share photos from the trip. Please do not share these photos outside of the group without permission, please!
Here is how we will handle the money you have generously donated: I will take the money out of gofundme and give to full amount directly to Ahmed and Alaa, then they will pay for gas and food as they see fit and save the rest to get on their feet in Dallas!
Thank you so much for your generosity, it means the world to them and to me to know so many people are rallying behind them!
Stay tuned for travel pics, starting early on Wednesday!