(1/2) “My first challenge here was learning the language. My next challenge was staying out of trouble. I actually had a hard time trying to learn what’s right and what’s wrong, because my dad is not around, and my uncles are barely home. I had to learn the hard way, and that’s what I did in Jordan. I’ve made mistakes, but I’m actually happy that I did because I learned from them, and now I can teach my brother and sister. There’s still a lot to learn, but I’m at a point in my life where I know what’s right and what’s wrong, and I’m able to help my family. Everyday I keep in mind that I have my family to take care of. It all depends on me making good choices.”
(2/2) “When my dad left, I was about 9 years old. I didn’t know anything, but I had to step up and be the man. My dad wasn’t a good man, honestly. He left, and I remember I had to work until I was 14, which is when we moved here. I used to work as much as possible after school and in the summer, just to put some food on the table. I mean, we had help, but my mom couldn’t find a job, because it’s really hard for a woman to find a job in Jordan. And I didn’t want her to have to work. I was willing to drop out of school to help her. I used to think about doing bad things that might end up helping the family, but were still bad. I just wanted to make my mom happy, because that’s what my dad never did. I tried my best to do that.”
“First I was in the Congo, but then there was a war. In 2004, we left the Congo to go to Burundi. We stayed there until we arrived here. All I can say is life was very, very hard. When you change your country to another country, people say, “You’re a refugee, you get more money, you have a good life.” But there, the refugee doesn’t have a good life. They say, “We’re going to kill you.” We were living in a bad situation. But I thank God for the time when I heard, “You’re going to America.” I was very, very happy. But now, I still have two children in Burundi. One daughter, and one son. They are living in a bad situation. Hopefully, maybe, they will come soon. I don’t know when.”
“I think that in Gaza we’re much more courageous and open to new things. Our lives are a big adventure. Back home, when a bomb drops in the middle of the war, we’re playing soccer. We know a bomb is going to drop 500 feet away, and we keep playing soccer. But here, everything is more secure and everybody cares about small things. I’m not saying people here are selfish, the concepts are just different. When I first came here, I was just thinking about going back home and building a community club for a refugee camp or another refugee school. Other people are thinking, “I want to graduate, get a job, buy a car, and have a wife.” Of course, it’s different because of the society. People here are much more afraid than people in Gaza.”
“My family came here in 1978 from Palestine. We were the first Muslim family here in Harrisonburg. As a kid, it was all about forming my identity. How American am I, and how different am I? It took me a long time to figure out that I should accept both… take the best of each culture and make it me. It’s a big tug of war of ‘What should I do? Do I drink that first beer, do I not?’ I’m sure that goes through everybody’s head. But it’s hard dealing with that loss of identity and the question of, ‘Who am I?’ One time I may have said, “Okay I will drink,” and the next time I say “no.” I finally figured out, it’s okay for me to say I don’t drink. It’s cool. You’re going to hang with me or not, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to drink my sprite and you’re going to drink your beer, and we’re going to hang out”.