refugeeIt has been nearly a month since the Syrian refugee family, the Altyara family, arrived in West Michigan. With the help of over 30 People’s Church members and other community volunteers, the family is getting settled in their new home and country.

Six days before the family’s arrival on June 29th, thanks to Mary Tift’s hard work and perseverance and with the help of dedicated volunteers from St. Thomas More Catholic Church, we found a wonderful four bedroom home for the Altyara family. It is located close to the bus line and within walking distance to stores and restaurants on Westnedge. The address is 932 Parker Ave.

Volunteers from our church, St. Tom’s and the Chen Family, as well as other recruited very “handy fellows,” worked for five days, to get the house in shape and ready for the Atlyara family to arrive and sleep in their own beds! There was lots of cleaning, painting, repairing, gardening, moving of furniture and other activities that all made it possible to have the house move-in ready. The family arrived very tired after their long journey. They were greeted at the airport by People’s Church Refugee Resettlement Core Team members and at their new home where they were served a hot meal prepared by the Kalamazoo Islamic Center.

The Altyara’s arrived the last week of Ramadan, the Muslim Holy Month. They were able to go to the Mosque for services that Friday. The family also began attending a weekly English Language tutoring session (ESL) at the Kalamazoo Islamic Center on Saturday morning, tutored by a large group of People’s people. The Eid Celebration that marks the end of Ramadan was held the following Wednesday morning, July 6th and the Altyara family participated in the celebration along with hundreds of other Muslims who live in our community.

During the second week we were able to set up the Internet and Roku TV for them with Arabic language channels. All five boys were very excited about being able to use their ipods and cell phones. Afifa Tajh, from the Kalamazoo Islamic Center, took Kahled and Fatema to get cell phones and River Artz-Iffland took them grocery shopping at the International Market and Meijer! They were taken to the Social Security Office by their Bethany caseworker, David Huisman, to apply for their social security cards; the first step in a process that includes getting State ID’s, Medicaid Cards, any needed vaccinations, a Bridge Card (for food assistance) and registering at Michigan Works for cash assistance and help finding employment.

Neena Marion set up in-home English Language Tutoring for the family three times a week; tutoring provided by People’s people volunteers. The goal is to teach every family member English as quickly as possible.

With the help of Bob Freidel, Kahled learned to clean the gutters in his new home and how to mow the lawn with a lawn mower no longer being used at church. Two of the boys have needed to go to the dentist because of painful tooth issues and thanks to our Core Team Dental Coordinator, June Shockley, they received timely dental care from her husband Dr. Rick Shockley.

Planned for the week of July 25th are appointments with Michigan Works, Kalamazoo Public Schools to get the boys registered for school in the fall, and a “check-in” meeting with Kahled, Fatema, David Huisman, and the Core Team to see how things are going from everyone’s perspective.

As the family continues the process of getting settled and established, the Core Team plans to set up social events where church members can meet and get to know the Altyaras.

A Building Religious Connections Picnic, sponsored by Temple B’Nai Israel, Congregation of Moses, Kalamazoo Islamic Center, Chapel Hill Methodist Church and People’s Church will be held on Sunday August 28th 12:00 – 4:00 at Prairie View Park in Portage. Please see page 9 in this newsletter for additional information. All People’s Church members are invited to attend the picnic. The Altyara family will be invited, as will all of the refugee families who have arrived in Kalamazoo this spring and summer. Please RSVP to Ann Feldmeier or call 269-720-1649 if you are able to attend.


Below is information about each member of the family:

Father’s info: Kahled Altyara, age 50.
Mother’s info: Fatema Al Najar, age 41.
No. 1 son: Adham Tayara, age 21.
No. 2 son: Molham Tayara, age 20.
 No 3 son: Moayyad Tayara, age 17.
Twins No. 4 & 5 sons: Omar Tayara and Abdullah Tayara, age 11.

The Altyara family has been assigned Bethany case worker; David Huisman. He will be working with the family for the first three months. Our job as a co-sponsoring church is to help in any and all ways possible.

How you can help right now:

 Make a donation. Thanks to the wonderful generosity of many people, both church members and caring community members, we have collected $4,800 in donations so far. These donations helped us purchase mattresses and box springs and pay for other costs to get their home set up. There were considerable expenses to get the house in “live-in” shape. We purchased paint, blinds, used furniture, etc. The landlord agreed to keep the rent for the Altyara Family under $1,000 ($950) if we, as co-sponsors, would do the work and absorb most of the expense of fixing up the home. While the home is now lovely, it needed considerable work and expense to make it livable.  We were blessed to have the “person power” and financial resources to accomplish that!  Also, the family needs cell phone service and Internet service for a few months until Kahled gets a job. (Probably for 6 months) Cell service will be split with the family – coming out of their settlement account, and will be $30 a month for us to pay. Internet service will be around $40-$50 a month and we will cover that until Kahled is employed. After paying invoices and reimbursing the people who paid for supplies and other expenses, we have a little over $1,000 to pay for expenses going forward. We anticipate that there may be needs that exceed this amount, and therefore we are continuing to fundraise. You can sent a donation check to the church – please put Refugee Resettlement in the memo line or you make a donation online.

Helping to Teach English: It is very difficult to get a job without any English language skills, so our number one priority will be to teach the family members English as fast as we can.  Please contact Vicki Konzen, ESL Coordinator at or 269-372-1615.

Helping with Transportation: they will need transportation to English Language Classes, medical appointments, job interviews, etc. If you can provide transportation please contact River Artz-Iffland at 269-254-7795 or

Helping to Find a Job for Kahled.  It is essential that Kahled and hopefully the 2 oldest sons find employment as soon as possible. The Core Team is still looking for someone to spearhead this role of helping find a job/jobs. If you are interested in helping in this area, please contact Ann Feldmeier 269-720-1649 or via email (The family will be working with David Huisman and Michigan Works too).

Helping to plan social events for the Altyara family to meet our church members and other community members.  We need a committee to be formed to work on this. Please consider joining this committee. Contact either Sally Padley or 269-3723943 or Ann Feldmeier 269-720-1649 or via email if you can help plan social events.

For up-to-date information, we will continue to put information in the Friday E-blasts. Please contact Ann or Sally at your earliest convenience if you can help and we will put you on our email list as well.

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