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Kansas City Welcomes First Syrian Refugee Family As Part Of 'Surge Operation'

Alex Smith
KCUR 89-three
Syrian refugee Ahmad al-Abboud (right) tells his story through interpreter Fariz Turkmani at a press conference Monday morning in Kansas City.

Despite an intense week getting his bearings, Ahmad al-Abboud smiled and expressed his gratitude at a press event Monday morning in Kansas City. 

“God bless Kansas City!” he said through an interpreter.

The 45-year-old former construction worker, his wife and five children are the first Syrian family to be resettled in the United States as part of a refugee “surge operation.” They arrived last Wednesday evening.

The family, from the Syrian city of Homs, had been living in Jordan for the previous three years after escaping the turmoil and war that have torn their country apart.

Al-Abboud still bears a deep scar across the bridge of his nose from a bomb blast in Syria that sent shrapnel tearing through his body.

“Since he put his foot on American soil, he’s felt safe,” said Al-Abboud’s Arabic interpreter, Fariz Turkmani.

President Obama announced in September that the U.S. would admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, fast-tracking the extensive screening process they’re required to undergo for security and health reasons.

Al-Abboud and his family are being hosted by Della Lamb Community Services, an outreach program of the United Methodist Church based in northeast Kansas City.

Judy Akers, Della Lamb’s executive president, says her organization has been inundated with pledges of support for the family since the news of their resettlement.

“Mostly it’s furniture. Some of it’s financial. There’ve been some offers of jobs,” Akers says. “Many of the offers have been, ‘You tell us what’s needed, and we’ll help get it.’”

Akers says Della Lamb has also heard a handful of negative reactions from those who associate the refugees with terrorism. She says Della Lamb will keep refugees’ personal information, such as their home addresses, confidential.  

She says she’s not sure whether and when Della Lamb will be receiving more Syrian refugees.

During his years in refugee limbo in Jordan, Al-Abboud said he’d become discouraged about getting asylum, but his interpreter said that entering the fast-track process changed everything.  

“He was shocked that it happened,” Turkmani said. “He thought it was going to be a constant struggle, appointment after appointment, and he would never come here. But when the decision was to come over here, it was much happiness.”

Alex Smith is a reporter for KCUR, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @AlexSmithKCUR

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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