Meet Husam Sano and Najlaa Alani

March 11, 2019

Husam and Najlaa’s journey from Iraq to Brooklyn is a harrowing experience many refugee families can relate to. Due to Husam’s job as a technology contractor working with the U.S government in Iraq, the family was the victim of countless death threats. They knew if they wanted to survive, they had to flee their homes for good.

After their birth of their son Aymen, in 2005 and daughter, Aya, in 2009, Husam and his wife finally applied with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to bring their family to the United States. The family were put on a waitlist for three years, but the case was expedited once the death threats to Husam’s family increased. Finally, the family received their plane tickets and in February 2014, they were suddenly uprooted from their homes and on their way to the U.S with very little to their name.

My life and my family’s security is important, but it was a small period of time [to leave] — we left most of our stuff, we couldn’t sell anything.

Husam Sano

When the family arrived to the U.S, they were shocked to find that they had to pay back the IOM for the airfare that brought them to safety. To have thousands of dollars in debt to your name during a time where they were struggling was distressing for the family. At their greatest time of need, they turned to AAFSC.

“We felt an emptiness, but when we put in our mind the danger that might face our two kids back in Iraq, we said, ‘we must stay for our kids,’ ” Sano said.

With the help of AAFSC’s Director of Community Outreach, Husam, Najlaa, and their children slowly got back on their feet. Through referrals, they began English classes to overcome the language barrier and Husam began a full-time job as a chef at a bakery. AAFSC also helped connect the family to mental health services to help them heal through their hardships and trauma. Through our New Immigrants and Refugees Fund, AAFSC has also helped the family pay back their debt of $5,700 to the IOM in full as of 2018.

“Right now, I’m beginning to love my job, because I’m liking what I’m doing,”

Husam Sano, who hopes to start management classes soon and one day work for the U.S. government again.

As they become more acclimated to their new home, Husam and Najlaa could not be more grateful to finally find safety and prosperity for their family in Brooklyn. With the support of AAFSC, they look forward to thriving and becoming active members of their community.

Photo via Jordan Rathkopf, quotes via Brooklyn Paper.