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Khanom’s Story

Syrian Family Finds Safety After Decade-Long Wait

We have dreams and hopes and ambitions and we hope we can achieve them here.

A decade since the civil war in Syria first ravaged the country and made headlines worldwide, millions of displaced Syrians continue waiting for the chance to rebuild their lives in safety.

Khanom and her three sons are among those who fled violence in 2011, landing in Egypt with terrifying uncertainty about their futures. They immediately applied for refugee status. Then, the wait began.

“My children have suffered from poverty, fatigue, work, deprivation — everything,” Khanom said through an Arabic interpreter. “I want to give them my strength, my effort and my love until my dying breath.”

After multiple background checks, six interviews each, a U.S. presidency that barred their arrival, and many prayers, Khanom’s family finally received approval for U.S. refugee resettlement last fall.

One week after receiving the news, the family of four landed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, knowing no one. The welcome from an International Institute of Minnesota case manager was the first touchpoint of their new lives in America.

“We were very excited and happy to come here. It’s a new experience for us, which is exciting for itself. And at the same time, we have dreams and hopes and ambitions and we hope we can achieve them here,” Khanom said, adding that she is most grateful for their safety.

She also expresses gratitude for the help her family has received from the Institute, our volunteers and donors. They now live in a tidy, two-bedroom apartment in St. Paul that was readied and stocked with essentials by Institute volunteers

“We have to give lots of credit to the Institute because they’ve helped us a lot,” Khanom said. “I am very happy to have met people who are kind, who feel what other people are going through and just want to help.”

A Syrian woman in a light pink hijab Close-up of a hand drawing

My dream and hope as a mother is to change my childrens’ lives. To provide safety for them, number one. I want them to be happy and to have a future.

Her youngest son is now enrolled in high school. Khanom’s adult son, Mahmoud, is eager to learn English quickly so he can work again as an electrician. Khanom, who discovered talent as a charcoal artist just last year, hopes to earn money by commissioning portrait work while also taking care of her other adult son, Noor, who has special needs.

The transition to Minnesota hasn’t been easy. Khanom and her sons know only each other and their Institute contacts. She admits that starting a new life, in a new country, is lonely and challenging, yet they move forward with optimism as they strive daily to learn about American culture, customs and transportation.

“My dream and hope as a mother is to change my childrens’ lives. To provide safety for them, number one,” Khanom said. “I want them to be happy and to have a future.”

Charcoal and pencil drawings of a young girl and an old man on a bench.

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