When I met Saad, a refugee from Iraq who has lost everything, I sensed a loneliness and homesickness. He was in a new apartment with no phone, TV or any kind of book.
This was not surprising to me, Saad had to flee Iraq, he worked for the American Embassy there during the Iraq war, lost his business after it was seized by the government, was targeted by religious extremists and had to flee the country. His eight children remained behind.
He came the United States penniless and alone, and was living in a one room apartment with several other refugees and sleeping on a mat on the floor.
Yet is quickly became clear to me that Saad is an avid reader, he pored over an Arab-English diction we brought him as if it were a gripping novel.
So I trawled around online and found four different books for him to read. One was a book of modern Arabic short stories, another was a book fo Arabic short stories written both in English and Arabic, a great learning tool, and the other two were new dictionaries.
One was a picket dictionary for Saad to carry around with him, another was a visual dictionary combining images, pictures and words, it includes video disc for learning. They arrives yesterday, I’ll bring them to Saad on Thursday.
We gave Saad a deposit and first month’s rent for his new apartment, and brought paintings and prints for the walls. He loves his new apartment and can pay the monthly rent.
We set out to give Saad some basic communications equipment – an Iphone 6, which we got by training in his old and broken phone and paying $200 to a cell phone company, a radio, a 32 inch wide-screen TV, a cable hookup for the television that will give Saad access to Arabic television channels, and these (above) books to give him something to read and learn English at the same time.
Just being able to call his children in Iraq has been transformative for him. Saad loves Facetime.
I also got him a new L.L. Bean spring jacket to replace the battered one he is wearing. He is visibly happier now, less lonely, busy learning English. Despite his many health problems, he insists he will be able to work and is looking for a job.
I think those are all of his urgent needs right now, I think he has the tools he needs to start his new life in some comfort and safety.
Thanks for supporting Saad, our new brother and sister in America. If you wish to support my work with Ali and the refugees, please send your contribution to The Gus Fund, c/o Jon Katz, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or via Paypal, firstname.lastname@example.org. And thanks. Saad wishes me to thank you also on his behalf. He says the Gods brought us to him when he needed us the most.
Saad and I are going to stay in touch. We have both been invited to dinner at another refugee home in the city, and he wants to visit the farm someday. I would love to have him here.