Our program to help Saad continues in earnest this week, he traded in an old and nearly inoperable old phone to a cell phone company offering a special trade-in deal and got a new Iphone 6 for $200. With his old phone, he had extremely limited usage, both in time and range, he could not call home, or even make many calls here.
Saad's isolation is pronounced, he has been cut off from all friends and family members and in need of a place to live. Last week, we paid the deposit to get him into a senior citizen facility just outside of Albany, and today, he got a phone with global range and we raised enough money to pay the monthly fees for a year.
He has unlimited calling on the Iphone, and the first call he made was to Iraq, where his family remains behind. Saad was targeted by religious extremists and fled to a refugee camp run by the United Nations. Because he worked at the U.S. Embassy during the war, he managed to get a visa to the United States and was taken to Los Angeles and left on his own.
Saad could hardly believe that he can call home anytime he wants. Obviously, the phone will also help him communicate here, and he insists he wants to find work, even though he has heart disease, diabetes, low blood pressure and 15 different prescription medications to take. He told me he hopes to be an Uber driver one day, but his doctor says he should not work. Saad is in his 60's. And his health would almost certainly disqualify him.
There may be other kinds of jobs where he can work.
He could not afford to live in Albany. The crowded room where he lived in central Albany with others was sold, he made his way to Albany because he heard there were other refugees there and some support from RISSE, the refugee and immigrant center. He is taking English classes there.
In the winter, he often appeared in the mornings at RISSE, cold and hungry. One hand shakes almost continuously with some kind of palsy.
Saad was forced to leave the small apartment in Albany where he was living with another refugee. He could pay the rent, but not the deposit for a new apartment.
Saad speaks almost no English, and is receiving a small monthly stipend from the city of Albany. He receives enough money from New York State to pay his $144 a month rent in a building where no one speaks Arabic.
He lives now in a one-bedroom apartment with a bed, a table, a sofa and a lamp and nothing on any of the walls.
We gave him $400 to help move him into the apartment and pay the deposit. He has almost no belongings.
He knows no one in his building or nearby.
He has no car and travels only by bus. We are getting him a special bus pass for seniors.
Saad's isolation there was disturbing, both to Ali, who brought him to me, and to me.
The new phone will help considerably, he can re-connect to the people and family he knew and loved in Baghdad, including his eight children, who have so far been denied permission to join him here in America.
Saad was a successful businessman in Baghdad after the war, but his business was confiscated by the government to help pay for their war against ISIS. He has absolutely nothing left.
We will also be bringing enough groceries to last for the next month or so. We furnished his apartment through the generosity of several local churches. Ali visits him regularly to see how he is doing.
On Wednesday, another step towards helping Saad establish himself in America. I'm bringing him a new radio, a new 32-inch screen television, an Arabic-American dictionary, two original water-color paintings donated by Rachel Barlow, a well-known Vermont artist, and some pots and pans, and a linen wall map of the Arab Peninsula.
Four framed wall prints are on the way for his apartment.
The television will also help his isolation, there are several Arabic channels he will be able to listen to. We've decided against getting a computer for him. He doesn't want one, and hasn't used one, and the Iphone will connect to the cable system we are purchasing for him.
We will monitor Saad and check in on him throughout the year, but after this week we will change our focus to another refugee family in urgent need More about that later. Our philosophy is help people with small and manageable problems, we work on a small scale.
Thanks to the Army Of Good for your support.
If you wish to help this refugee work, you can send a contribution to The Gus Fund, c/o me, Jon Katz. P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or via Paypal, [email protected] We commit small acts of great kindness, we keep good alive.