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VOA Connect 13: Adapting as a Refugee


((PKG)) SYRIAN SWEETS

((Banner: Adapting))

((Reporter/Camera: June Soh))

((Adapted by: Zdenko Novacki))
((Map: United States / Arizona / Phoenix))

((TAN JAKWANI, CO-FOUNDER, SYRIAN SWEETS EXCHANGE))
Since I moved to Arizona, I started working with refugees from all over the world. And at the end of 2016, I met a group of volunteers actively helping refugees, and we met each other on a Facebook group. So, over the winter break, somebody posted about a Syrian Sweets Exchange being done in Tucson, where Syrian refugees baked a lot of delicious sweets and brought to a church for a bake sale and there were hundreds of people supporting. So, a couple of volunteers posted about that and asked if anyone’s interested in helping.
((NOOR AL MOUSA, SYRIAN REFUGEE))
When I first came, I haven't anybody, any friends, but American volunteers helped me in everything. I made sweets just for family in my country. Now, volunteers help me to sell my sweets in Farmer’s Market.
((JONATHAN SHAW, CUSTOMER))
I’ve never tried Syrian sweets before, but I’m really excited. We got the whole family out today, and we’re coming to the farmers market and we’re just trying the different stands here and all the different food. By buying some of her Syrian sweets, you’re actually helping to support a refugee and helping her get a great start here in America.
((TAN JAKWANI, CO-FOUNDER, SYRIAN SWEETS EXCHANGE))
After the overwhelming response of the first Syrian Sweets Exchange, we continued to host more bake sales at churches, synagogues, Arizona State University, and local bookstores. Besides Syrian Sweets Exchange, we have the reading program where we connect refugee families to a reading volunteer.
((MALEK AKGUL-LEE, COORDINATOR, REFUGEE READING PROGRAM))
The initial idea of the reading program was to match each family with a local volunteer that goes and visits them in their house, and reads for an hour or so on a regular basis, and ideally on a weekly basis for consistency purposes. We didn't only create this opportunity for children to read with a local volunteer in English and advance their reading and comprehension skills, and we also connected them with local families, and they created friendships and relationships, and that is helping with the transition of these refugee families into our community.
((TAN JAKWANI, CO-FOUNDER, SYRIAN SWEETS EXCHANGE))
I think that if each one of us put in a little bit effort, a lot can be done to help them rebuild their lives in their new homeland. My dad always told us about the time when he first came, he had a family sponsor who helped him with getting his driver's license, getting a library card, and helped him get a job.

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