My name is Ghazwan Abdullah, and I am a former refugee, a husband, and a father to three beautiful children. In 2005, an envelope was thrown in the front yard of my house in Iraq by a sectarian militia with a death threat, “Leave the country, or you are going to meet your fate.”
There was a bullet tucked inside that envelope. A week before receiving the death threat, a friend’s son was kidnapped by a militia for a ransom. Even when the family paid the ransom, the militia sent the body of their 10-year-old child chopped up in a garbage bag.
I was sad and angry but mostly terrified of what they would do to my family. So, in the dark of night, my family and I fled quietly to the east, to Jordan. Being refugees in Jordan was the biggest challenge of our lives. We felt isolated and homesick, and we could only sit at home with no hope for tomorrow. Jordanian law does not allow refugees to work. I could not put food on the table for my family; I felt worthless. That is what all refugees experience besides suffering from trauma-related stress and depression.
Three years later, I was asked to help distribute food boxes to refugees at a non-profit called The Collateral Repair Project. This opportunity completely changed my perspective and touched my heart. Whenever I handed a food box to a refugee, it drew a smile on their face, and I saw the appreciation in their eyes. Right then, I realized I could do more. I started volunteering regularly, and I got myself some food vouchers, which helped support my growing family.
When I started volunteering, I didn’t have any experience in humanitarian work, and I could barely speak English. I used body language to communicate. It was all about our humanity as human beings that enable us to communicate. After a year, I was employed to do home visits and assess the needs of other refugees. My life and my outlook started to change. Hope returned. I kept receiving promotions and became the Program Director and a member of the Board of Trustees. The project has broadened my horizons. I did not just like my job. I loved it. It made me feel proud of myself to help people provide food and necessities for their families. Working with refugees has become my home away from home. I am one of them, so I deeply understand their needs.
As refugees, we registered at the UNHCR office (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in 2005 like all other refugees when they flee their home countries. Ten years later, your country, America, was the only one that opened its doors to welcome us to live in peace and safety. When we arrived in Dallas, TX, three years ago, my family and I were welcomed with open arms at DFW airport. Strangers came to me to say, “Welcome to the United States, welcome to Dallas.” I finally felt at home because I was home. Americans are loving, caring, and compassionate people.
My family and I received great support here in Dallas, which enabled us to give back to the community; I starting working with refugees, as it is an integral part of my life. I currently work as a Refugee Case Manager for Mosaic Family Services; we help refugees become self-sufficient. I also work for Seek The Peace as an Operations Manager, where we empower refugees to become leaders for peace at home and abroad.
My wife is a civil engineer herself; she has been volunteering with an elementary school in the neighborhood we live in, running ESL classes for newcomer refugee students to overcome language barriers. Refugees and immigrants have a lot to offer. We help build developed communities and countries.
My family and I are so grateful to be residents in the US, living in peace and safety among our American brothers and sisters. I am thankful for all the amazing people here in Dallas and across the United States to stand for Refugees and Immigrants. I am so appreciative of all the Christians, Jewish and other faiths who have been supportive and stand beside their Muslim brothers and sisters.
A lot has happened in the year since this blog post was originally written!
Despite challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic, Ghazwan and his family have officially become citizens of the United States! Along with all our other refugee staff members, Ghazwan is a testament to the wonderful impact refugees have on our society. Mosaic is so lucky to have Ghazwan as part of our team and we’re even luckier to have him as a citizen of our great country!