Hassan left Iraq in October 2009, fleeing life-threatening persecution for a refugee camp in Lebanon. After almost three years in Lebanon, Hassan and his family were placed in Spokane in September, 2012.
It was a near-perfect fit.
“I didn’t feel like an outsider,” Hassan said. “The people of Spokane helped me feel welcome.”
Soon after arriving, Hassan started to make Spokane his home. He enrolled in World Relief Spokane’s match-grant program, which enables refugees to be self-sufficient within six months of their arrival in Spokane. Through Jan Greene, the program’s job developer, Hassan found work preparing and cleaning rental homes and apartments.
For as smooth as parts of it were, the transition from Iraq and Lebanon to the United States came with its fair share of challenges as well. Hassan and the rest of his family of six had to learn English, American culture, and even how to navigate the snow that Spokane sees every winter.
Hassan chuckled recalling his first winter in the snow. “We don’t have that in Iraq,” he said.
World Relief Spokane paired Hassan and his family with a family of volunteers, and while they could only do so much about the snow, the Coyle’s gave Hassan and his family a chance to learn English and have American friends.
The families quickly formed a special relationship. They often spend important moments together. Hassan and Majeda, his wife, came to the hospital to visit Bonnie after she gave birth to the Coyle’s youngest daughter. They brought gifts and smiles as the families had an impromptu baby shower in the hospital.
“We describe them as family. The bond we have with them is unlike any other relationship we have,” Danny said.
With the backing of his friends and former manager, Hassan started his own business in May. He hit the ground running and the small business contracts with landlords and property managers to do landscaping and preparatory work for properties all over Spokane.
More good news piled up from there. One of Hassan’s daughters, Nabaa, recently earned the Cooper Jones Award, given to a student at Franklin Elementary School with exemplary character.
Then, in December, Hassan and Majeda became American citizens. They took weeks of classes at World Relief Spokane and practiced their English so they could officially join the community that welcomed them five years prior.
“I’m thankful to live in this country,” Hassan said. “I’m happy here.”