Before the Syrian civil war started, Enas was an Elementary school science teacher and her husband, Mahmoud, was a small business owner. The couple had two children and lived in Damascus Al-Ghouta.
As was the case for many Syrians, the eruption of a civil war changed almost everything they knew about their home. The war, which entered its seventh year in March, devastated the country and forced millions of Syrians, including Enas, Mahmoud, and their two children, to flee their homes.
“We almost died three times in Syria,” Enas said. “There was no food and no medicine. We had to leave.”
The family fled to Egypt. While there, Enas and her husband found whatever work they could, but it was very difficult for them. One of their children has autism, and Mahmoud has health issues that prevent him from taking certain kinds of work. They also had limited access to resources and few opportunities for their son or Mahmoud to get medical assistance. They managed to make enough money for the rent of an apartment about the size of a single office, 8-feet by 12-feet, in a dangerous neighborhood. Finding help in the country wasn’t an option. All the family could do was survive and hope for better days.
They applied for refugee status while they were in Egypt, but the wait for the American refugee vetting process seemed endless.
“America has a right to pick who comes here,” she said. “But some people really need to come here and get help.”
The good news came in May of 2016. Enas, Mahmoud, and their children were cleared to come to the United States. She still remembers the moment with palpable joy.
The start of the family’s time in America went as well as Enas could have hoped. One of the family’s case managers, Katie Carver, greeted them at the airport on June 28th, 2016, a date that Enas will remember forever. Katie took the family to live with a temporary host family while World Relief Spokane staff worked to find them affordable housing. The kindness of their hosts left an impact on the family.
“When we left, I was crying,” Enas said. “I didn’t want to leave them.”
World Relief helped them move into their new home, an apartment in north Spokane. With the exception of some small issues surrounding obtaining a recycling bin (the family wanted to be sure they could recycle in their new home), the move went smoothly and they took another step closer to having a normal life again.
Mark Finney, one of the family’s former case managers and current World Relief Spokane director, remembers the move-in well.
“From the day Enas arrived in Spokane I would describe her as hospitable and full of grace. Even when we were still moving furniture into their first apartment she was making tea and snacks for us.”
As is the case for many families that World Relief resettles, transitioning from Egypt to the United States was far from easy for Enas and Mahmoud. Heath issues exacerbated the difficulties of adjusting to life in the United States, and Enas’s son still needed extra help in school. It was also very difficult to navigate through Spokane while speaking very little English.
“Though it’s been hard for everyone, I’ve watched Enas persevere, fight for her family, grow leaps and bounds in English, learn to drive, and hold her family together despite all the huge challenges. I look forward to seeing her every time she’s in the office,” said Jami Austing, one of World Relief’s medical specialists.
When their time in the standard resettlement program was nearly up, Enas and Mahmoud joined PRIME, a World Relief program that assists refugees who need extended help.
World Relief staff also connected the family with a volunteer to help navigate the maze of the American healthcare system. Enas also exudes gratefulness for Melissa, the family’s PRIME case manager, “Melissa has done a lot for us.”
If you asked Melissa, she would say that the privilege was hers.
“Working alongside Enas and her family has been an incredible gift and privilege. Watching her continual perseverance, growth and courage through challenging times has brought me deep hope.”
When asked about her dreams for life in the United States, Enas laid out two wishes: “I want my son and husband to be healthy,” she said. “And I want to be a teacher’s assistant. I love kids.”