Goodness coming to Syrian family, but more needed to make Austin home


Sami Ashour is doing his best.

He works. He takes classes in English as a second language. He cares for his wife, Ahlam, and their five children, who are part of the Statesman Season for Caring program, which highlights the needs of 12 local families and helps hundreds of others served by local nonprofit agencies. The family was nominated by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, which builds relationships between faith communities.

The Syrian civil war weighs heavily on Ashour’s spirits. He lost dear family and friends. He lost home after home. He watched his relatively comfortable world shatter in ruins.

While everything good about their life in suburban Damascus was reduced to rubble, he did what he could to protect his wife and children.

They finally escaped to Jordan, but life in the refugee camps and in the capital city of Amman was tentative and full of its own dangers.

“Ninety-five percent of what is happening in Syria and Jordan is not being reported and that’s not right,” Sami Ashour, 48, says through an interpreter. “We lived the truth there. There is no goodness left where we came from. There’s nothing to go back to in Syria. No home.”

Ahlam Al Battal, 38, wipes away a tear when she thinks of her family back in Syria.

“I was with them all the time,” she says. “But now we are separated. I do talk to them and they are well. I never imagined that I would never see my mother. Nothing will make up for those losses.”

Soon goodness is coming to the Ashour family. They will be moving into a Foundation Communities apartment this month. The Austin community is coming together to fill that apartment.

Right now the chairs at their kitchen table are a collection of office chairs, a stool and kid chairs. The table is a coffee table. Austinite Wendy Conklin, who owns ChairWhimsy,  saw a picture of that in the paper. “It just broke my heart,” she says. “Family meals are important. It’s important to sit around the table.”

She is reupholstering six chairs in a bright floral pattern fabric top and a durable fabric for the seat. She’s also refinishing a large dining room table and trying to find a bench as well to reupholster. She’ll make it fun, she says, and make it work with a red rug that already has been donated.

Conklin, who ships chairs all over the country, says, “I was so excited to see they are from here. This is something I can do for them.”

A set of bunk beds and some dishes are on their way, too.

On Saturday, Waste Connections is building the children bikes. This is the second year the local employees of the trash disposal company have donated funds to purchase bikes for people served by local nonprofit agencies. Last year, they purchased and put together 266 bikes and delivered them along with helmets.

The Ashours still need a lot of things to make Austin home including living room furniture, towels and blankets, clothing, a van or SUV, a washer and dryer, a microwave, dressers, a sewing machine and moving assistance. They would also like job training, too.

Al Battal is focused on the future.

“There are good people here,” she says. “I hope my children grow up to be good people. Successful people. They can do that in this country.”

To find out more about the Ashour family or give an item on their wish list, contact Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, Ext. 7, interfaithtexas.org.



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