News / USA

    Syrian Refugee's Tragic Story Earns White House Recognition

    Syrian refugee Refaai Hamo shakes hands with President Barack Obama on Jan. 12, 2016, at the State of the Union speech. (Courtesy of Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York)
    Syrian refugee Refaai Hamo shakes hands with President Barack Obama on Jan. 12, 2016, at the State of the Union speech. (Courtesy of Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York)
    Raveen Dosky Kajjo

    Syrian Kurdish refugee Refaai Hamo never dreamed his tragic story would someday lead him to a sit next to America's First Lady in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

    "It was great feeling," he told VOA's Kurdish service, after he was one of 23 guests in Michelle Obama's box during this week's State of the Union speech.

    Hamo, 55, fled to Turkey in 2013 and later came to the United States, after a Syrian government anti-personnel missile killed seven of his family members, including his wife and a daughter.

    His story caught the attention of the White House after it was posted late last year on a popular Facebook page titled "Humans of New York." President Barack Obama read his story and mentioned it publicly, calling him "an inspiration.”

    "As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you have endured," Obama wrote in a comment on the Facebook page.

    "You can still make a difference in the world and we're proud that you'll pursue your dreams here," Obama wrote. "Welcome to your new home. You're part of what makes America great."

    'Affected by memories'

    Hamo's story has attracted widespread attention in social media.

    After the bombing in Aleppo, Hamo left for Turkey but could not work because he lacked a permit. Hamo then found he had stomach cancer, but recovered despite struggling to find treatment with no medical insurance.

    FILE - Syrian refugee Refaai Hamo addresses the media during a news conference in Romulus, Mich.FILE - Syrian refugee Refaai Hamo addresses the media during a news conference in Romulus, Mich.
    x
    FILE - Syrian refugee Refaai Hamo addresses the media during a news conference in Romulus, Mich.
    FILE - Syrian refugee Refaai Hamo addresses the media during a news conference in Romulus, Mich.

    Last year, the U.S. granted him refugee status, and he moved to Troy, Michigan, with three daughters.

    Hamo told VOA that the tragedy his family faced has taken a psychological toll on him and his children.

    "My children are a little bit better," he said. "But just as everyone else, they are still affected by memories. My daughter still has a piece of a rocket shell in her neck. Today, they are trying to lead a normal life by going to school and meeting new people."

    Hamo, who holds a Ph.D. in engineering, told VOA it was an honor to meet Obama this week and discuss Syria's civil war.

    "President Obama is one of the kindest and most intellectual people I have ever met," he said.

    Regarding his future, Hamo said he hoped to resume his career as an engineer and a scientist in America. He recently discussed with American counterparts his invention of an earthquake detection device that he used in Syria.

    "A group of scientists met with me at the [U.S.] State Department and we discussed future work together," he said. "They were very happy to see what I had to offer."

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora