This is the first Thanksgiving in the United States for the Tameem family, who arrived in Des Moines in the late spring. The Tameem family had never heard of the holiday, nor had they eaten turkey before. Upon learning that Thanksgiving was established by immigrants celebrating what America had given them, Ghazweh stated, “That is beautiful.” She intended to cook a turkey for her family for the first time.
It is not difficult for the Tameem family to find things to be thankful for this year. Abdul has been working hard washing dishes at a hotel, and has earned enough money to buy a minivan for his family. The children have made friends at school and giggle as they recite the English words they are learning, such as “banana” or “socks.” Ghazweh is also learning English at a local church with other refugees, and she and her children practice together.
Ghazweh is thankful to God for saving her family, and thankful to the many Americans who have made them feel welcome and included. One American visitor even went so far as to join the family in Ramadan.
However, the Tameem family still faces many difficulties. They miss their friends and family that are still in Syria. In Syria, Abdul owned a family business that painted homes. The career change has been difficult for him, and he consistently struggles with earning enough money to provide for his family despite working long hours.
In addition, the impending change in government has created anxiety for many refugee and immigrant populations around the country due to President Elect Trump’s rhetoric. However, it is too early to tell how a Trump presidency will effect the lives of refugees like the Tameem family both in America and abroad. “At this point, we don’t really know what will happen,” said Carly Ross, director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Des Moines. However, Ross does know that each of the Syrian families that USCRI has resettled have been extraordinarily resilient. “Overall, this is as accelerated a refugee group as we have seen, in large part because their country was highly developed,” Ross said. “They are ready to be living normal lives. They are ready to partake in middle-class existence.” Nearly all heads of households have one or two jobs, many are purchasing vehicles, their children are in local schools, and the parents earnestly desire to learn English.
Ghazweh is conscious of the negative stereotypes some Americans have against Syrians. “Why are people looking at us just as Muslims?” She asks. “They need to know us as humans. Just treat us as humans.”
Ghazweh stated that she and her family want to live in peace, and she wants to be loved by the Americans.
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