From a country of war to a country of peace: Syrian refugee builds new career, relationships with help from LSC

Published 12:05 am Friday, June 14, 2024

Mohammed Al Kassar didn’t know what to expect when he arrived at Lutheran Services Carolinas’ Trinity Oaks senior living community for his first day of work on the maintenance team last October — and frankly, he was a little nervous. The Syrian refugee and his family had only arrived in the United States in July, and he was just beginning to learn English.

“I worried about how people might treat me because I’m a foreigner,” said Al Kassar, a client of LSC’s New Americans Program who worked as a plumber back in Syria.

Al Kassar needn’t have worried, because the LSC Way is in full swing at Trinity Oaks. Teammates embraced him according to LSC’s “Welcome All” principle, and they immediately extended compassion, respect and collaboration — all LSC core values.

Campus Director of Maintenance C.J. Moody led by example — another principle of the LSC Way.

“When Mohammed was hired, nobody knew how it was going to work out, so I had to begin with an open mind,” Moody said.

Under Moody’s leadership, the entire maintenance team installed a language translation app and began training their newest member.

Shared values build a team

It quickly became clear to Al Kassar that his teammates share a deep commitment to LSC’s core values.

“After a day or two, all my fears turned to happiness,” he said. “It was a wonderful surprise.”

The team addresses any confusion with a generous spirit.

“Sometimes the app doesn’t work as well as we’d like,” Moody said. “But when we slow down and take the time to understand each other, we grow stronger.”

In turn, Al Kassar has become a valued member of the Trinity Oaks community.

“Once (Al Kassar) began work, you could tell he had a servant’s heart and wanted to help however he could,” Moody said.

Adding a new American to the maintenance team has also raised awareness.

“Getting to know Mohammed and learning about his background has opened my eyes to new things,” Moody said. “I’m even starting to learn a little bit of Arabic.”

Putting down roots

Meanwhile, Al Kassar and his wife, daughter, and two sons are settling into American life.

“Thanks to LSC’s help, we now rent a beautiful home in Spencer,” Al Kassar said. “(My wife) Duaa studies English at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. My daughter Nadia and son Nadeen are 14 and 10 years old, and they attend school. Our youngest son, Taim, is 3 years old and goes to preschool.”

New Americans Program teammates played an integral role in the family’s resettlement.

“After we arrived in July, we worked closely with Breanna (Hagerott), Dawn (Ranes) and Quinn (Rizzo) in the Salisbury New Americans Program office,” Al Kassar said. “Dawn helped me apply for my job at Trinity Oaks.”

The family has also received moral and tangible support from members of St. John’s Lutheran Church who formed a Circle of Welcome through the New Americans Program.

“They are a wonderful group of friends,” Al Kassar said. “I want to thank Barbara Hattaway, Karen Puckett, Mike and Sharon Agee, and Michael and B.J. Conner, as well as my English tutor, Andy Edwards.”

Grateful for the basics

Al Kassar and his family are grateful for the opportunities they have received through LSC’s New Americans Program.

“Life in the United States is much easier than in Syria,” he said. “Everything we need is available — and, most important, we are safe.

“We have big plans for our future. But first we are concentrating on learning English and getting a good education for our children. We want to stay in the Salisbury area, and I want to stick around Trinity Oaks — I love it so much.”

When asked to share his final thoughts on being a New American, Al Kassar said, “I want readers to appreciate how beautiful life is in the United States. We came from a country of war to a country of peace.”