From Homs to Boston: Meet the Aljelou Family
Ahmed currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife, Rikanz, and their 4 children. Ahmed is originally from Homs. Due to the ongoing violence, Ahmed fled to Jordan, where he met his wife, Rikanz, in a refugee camp that she was living in. Ahmed asked for her hand in 2013.
Before the conflict in Syria began, Ahmed worked in construction. Rikanz was still in high school, however she was unable to finish her studies due to the war and subsequent displacement. Before being resettled to the United States, Ahmed and Rikanz lived in Jordan for 5 years.
In 2017, Ahmed and his family were resettled to Boston. Ahmed found work as a dishwasher at The Cheesecake Factory. Ahmed could not afford a car for his family. For over a year, Ahmed biked to and from work. His commute would take up to 2 hours. It was especially difficult for him to bike to work during the winter, in the harsh conditions.
Rikanz was the first woman in the Syrian refugee community to obtain her driver's permit – she even got her permit before Ahmed. On days Ahmed wasn't working, he was limited with how he could spend time with his family. For the most part, they spent time together at home.
"Having no car with four small children at home is difficult. I want to explore, I want to take them out. But without a car, it is impossible."
Better work opportunities and English language acquisition courses became inaccessible for Rikanz and Ahmed; without a car, they could not explore their community or facilities with courses to help advance their education and careers.
On June 15, Karam Foundation surprised Ahmed and his family at their home in Boston and gifted them a car. Both Ahmed and Rikanz were in complete shock. We asked their children what they would like to do first, and their response was "now we can go to the mosque for Eid celebrations!"
"I cant believe that this is happening. There is another opportunity to rebuild our lives and situation. We can finally move forward."
Ahmed was in complete shock when he saw the car. When he lived in Syria, Ahmed drove a motorcycle. This is Ahmed's first car. Because he is a first time driver and he did not have a driver's license in Syria, insurance will cost double the normal amount.
With a car, Ahmed will be able to access better job opportunities so that he can continue to support his family. Ahmed hopes to find work in construction or in a barber shop. Rikanz is currently studying to obtain her driver's license – she hopes to return to school and enroll in ESL classes. She hopes to find work as well.
Ahmed is most excited to be independent. Having a car means that he will no longer need to depend on others and that he can spend quality time with his family on his days off.
Karam's Jumpstart program provides newly arrived Syrian refugee families in the US access to a stable mode of transportation, vocational training programs, and referrals to specialized community organizations. Karam currently supports 32 families across 8 states. You can support other Syrian refugee families in the US to our Jumpstart program!