After six full months in the U.S., the Altyara family is thriving!

Omar and Abdullah are playing basketball at Arcadia Elementary. An actual game schedule is going to start soon, where they will be playing against teams from other elementary schools. The boys have embraced this sport with gusto and enthusiasm. Their coach, Coach Raven, runs the program at Arcadia as a volunteer. Under his guidance, the boys are learning more than just basketball skills; they are learning to be responsible young men. Coach has a trip planned to see the Pistons play the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 9th. The twins will be going along with Molham and Moayyad as chaperones. The basketball trip fundraising to pay for the bus to Detroit is a little over ½ way towards the goal of $1,300. (for 43 students and chaperones)

Molham and Moayyad have started their second trimester at Kalamazoo Central and are taking additional academic classes. This will be a challenging semester for them. However they have both excelled in learning to speak English and are working hard to learn to read and write in English.  In order to be able to do homework at home, they needed to have a computer. Our team decided to purchase a laptop for the high school boys with the money donated by the  Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Portage who generously held a fundraiser to benefit the Altyara family.

Fatema and Adham are attending ESL classes 5 days a week in the morning at three different locations. Vicki Konzen of People’s Church, professional ESL teacher, and leader of the ESL classes at Prince of Peace Church reports that they are doing very well and have tested into Level 2. Both Fatema and Adham have needed quite a bit of dental work. We were fortunate to be able to work with Dr. Kevin Shugars, local endodontist, to reduce his fee to do a needed root canal for Fatema. Medicaid pays for routine dental care, such as cleanings, fillings and pulling teeth, but does not cover crowns, root canals or oral surgery. For any of these services we will need to find a specialist who will agree do the work for a reduced fee and this is often challenging. Continued fundraising will be needed to pay for the expensive dental work that is necessary.
Khaled’s job keeps him busy. He passed his driver’s test and now has his Michigan Driver’s License. (Molham also has his license) When winter is over, the family will be looking to purchase a 7-passenger van. As part of a program at Michigan Works, recipients can receive up to $2,000 towards purchasing a vehicle for transportation to work. (Currently Khaled is paying his boss to drive him to Shelbyville to work at Michigan Fine Herbs each day.)

During the Christmas break our team was proactive in arranging for fun and educational activities for the boys. They went to Sky Zone to jump on trampolines, to the library 3 times to participate in programs the library offered and the older boys went to Soccer Zone one evening. We also tried to work on English and fun projects that they could do at home. (the twins made books!)

We were able to arrange a discounted membership fee with the YMCA for the family. Molham and Moayyad are taking adult swimming lessons and Omar and Abdullah are taking “pollywog” swim lessons. The Y is within walking distance for the family and we hope that they will utilize the many programs and opportunities available at the Y.

You may see Adham at church these next few months as he needs to complete 40 hours of volunteer work. Over Christmas break,  Adham took an ambulance ride to Bronson Hospital ER because he had a bad toothache. His mom did not know where he had gone—he just left the house. He apparently went to Meijer where he told them he was “sick”. Meijer called an ambulance that took him to the Bronson ER. Adham did not realize that ambulance rides in America are very expensive! Apparently they are free in Syria.

The ambulance company, Life EMS, was very generous to agree to write off Adham’s bill of $815 (which of course he cannot pay) if he completed 40 hours of volunteer work.  Adham is enthusiastic about being able to be helpful and give back to People’s Church as he works to comply with Life EMS offer.

The uptick in reports of the Syrian War recently caused great sadness and heartache for the Altyaras. And the concern and uncertainty with the new Trump administration, has added to their stress and fear. In the midst of the adults’ grief and the young people’s enormous efforts to acclimate to a whole new culture and language, the Altyaras are remarkably resilient. They continue to need our support and love as they do the hard work of settling into in our welcoming Kalamazoo community.

Additional needs:

  1. Monetary donations to cover expensive dental needs. Make checks payable to People’s Church and indicate in the memo line that it is for the Refugee Resettlement.
  2. Gift cards to Meijer to purchase household items and sometimes needed clothing (underwear, socks, etc.)

Household items such as personal care items: shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste, cleaning supplies: dish washing soap, detergent, hand soap, floor cleaner, etc. paper products: napkins, paper towels, toilet paper. We have been collecting these items and have a bin at the top of the stairs labeled for the refugee family.

The Refugee Resettlement Team thanks everyone who has helped the Altyaras. Many people have volunteered their time, donated household items, and/or made monetary donations.  All have made a significant positive impact on the family.

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