29 May

Saad To Army Of Good: Thank You.

by Jon Katz
Saad To Army Of Good: Thanks: Photo by Ali (Amjad Abdullah)

You may remember Saad, he once worked for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Iraqi war, then started a successful business in Baghdad, which was appropriated by the government in its war with religious extremists.

A few years ago, he was targeted by terrorists and had to flee the country to a United Nations  camp. He had to leave his wife and family behind. He made his way to Los Angeles, but without any family or resources, could not afford to live there. Friends drove  him to Albany, where, penniless he shared a room with another refugee.

He was often hungry and cold, and showed up at RISSE, the refugee and immigrant center, shivering in a spring jacket. Two weeks ago, we paid for a deposit and first months rent in a clean and safe one-bedroom apartment outside of Albany. Saad loves the apartment, but was totally cut off from his family and culture, he is the only person in a huge apartment building who speaks Arabic.

With your help, we helped him settle in. We got him an Iphone 6 in a sweet trade-in deal, we brought him a new 32 inch cable TV, prints and paintings for the walls, groceries, a cable connection  so he can watch Arabic channels, and a fan. And this week, our final gifts, a spring jacket from L.L. Bean and two books of Arabic short stories, and two Arabic-English dictionaries, one illustrated.

So now he can read, talk on the phone or watch TV  in his apartment. You are an American now, for sure, I kidded.

He left eight children behind in Iraq, now he can cal them whenever he wants. He loves Facetime.

Saad wants you to know how much he appreciates this support, he says he wants to make it on his own now, and can. Despite some serious illnesses – heart disease and diabetes – he wants to work. He wants to pay his own way.

We have moved on to some other needy cases.  Hawah, who was living in a homeless shelter a little more than a  week ago,  is moving into her new apartment on Thursday, I hope to be there. We are still talking to landlords, looking for the right apartment for Amranaso. She was tortured by the Syrian Army in Iraq before escaping to Turkey, where she nearly died crossing the mountains alone.

We are working this week to pay down or pay off some debts she acquired so she can have a clean start when we find her an apartment. She has a job.


23 May

Arabic Books For Saad. Starting A New Life

by Jon Katz
Arabic Books For Saad

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.

Saad reading an Arabic-English Dictionary

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, [email protected]. 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.

21 May

Video: Saad Getting His New Linen Map Of Arabia – Going Home

by Jon Katz

We went to see Saad, a new refugee to America from Iraq, he worked for the U.S. Embassy there during the war and was recently targeted by religious extremists. He is without any family or resources, he lost everything there when he fled to a rrefugee camp to save his life.

I think there is nothing lonelier than to be a  refugee in a foreign land. Maria found an old linen map of Arabia, we brought it Saad yesterday when we also brought some things for his new apartment, which the Army Of Good helped him get last week.

Saad was deeply moved by the linen map, he dropped to his knees and showed Maria each of the countries he recognized. He speaks no English and we speak no Arabic but the conversation he had with us was very powerful.

Come and see.

20 May

Thanking Saad: Brothers From Other Mothers. Some Joy And Sadness.

by Jon Katz
Brothers From Different Mothers

It was my friend Ed Gulley who suggested we might be brothers from another mother. I have felt the same way about Ali, and today, I felt this same connection with Saad, a man I barely know from the other side of the world.

When we said goodbye, we both gave each other a great hug, and I thanked him for trusting me, for telling me his story, for letting me take his photography, for hopefully making his awful journey of pain and loss and isolation better in some small way.

We can do some small things for him, but the big ones are in his hands, and I feel guilty, almost as if I am abandoning him now in some way. He is a good and kind-hearted man, and I pray he is  strong enough for what lies ahead. I think he is very strong This week, we are trying to help Hawah find a permanent home for herself and her children, and will meet a Syrian mother whose son and family were all killed in the dreadful Syrian civil war.

She is also abandoned in America, and in need of a small studio apartment. Ali and I are meeting with her on Tuesday. I hardly know Saad, but I will miss his gentle and soft-spoken presence, I think he knows I will always respond if he needs help.


I wanted to mention that tomorrow I will undergo additional surgery on my left eye, I have a retinal disorder that threatens blindness if not  treated. The first round, several months ago, did not quite work, so we’re going to try it again sometime around mid-day. I should be home in the late afternoon and running my mouth on the blog if all goes as planned, and I am sure it will.

Thanks for following the Saad story and for  helping to give him a new start in life here.

Bedlam Farm