LOS ANGELES - Syrian refugee, Mohamad Naser Trad is spending his birthday dinner in a new land and with some strangers who are becoming new friends.
“A lot of Americans welcome us and so nice to us, and they want to help us,” said Trad.
Trad, his parents and three other siblings arrived in the United States six months ago.They are now in Los Angeles and have been invited to a dinner hosted by an organization called Trybe, which celebrates the different traditions of local communities.
Trybe is just one of the hosts of dinners for refugees in cities across the United States .It is a part of a national initiative called “Refugees Welcome.” The goal is to break barriers by breaking bread together.
“To be able to have them join us at the table and share their stories and share their traditions with us and to realize that we’re all really the same, and we need this as much as they do, and we hope that they feel welcomed here,” said Trybe’s Chaya Bindell.
“It’s a big step to come here, and it’s a big difference because it’s different culture, so I hope to adapt here very quick,” said Trad.
Both Trad and his younger sister, Laila miss their life back home in Syria.
"When I came here I get sad because no one [I know is] here.I miss my family, my friends," said 15-year-old Laila Trad, who has a tough time fitting in among her classmates.“Some of them they talk to me.“Can I see your hair?Why [are] you with [wear] this [hijab]?”Sometimes they bother me.“You’re a terrorist.”But I don’t listen to them,” she remembered.
“It’s hard for her and for me because just [they are] taking the news from TV.They don’t know the truth,” Mohamad Naser Trad said.
On television, the Trump administration has again included Syria in the revised executive order temporarily banning people from six countries from entering the United States.
“He judge one people that a Syrian can be a terrorist.Maybe anyone can be.You can’t judge anyone by his nationality,” but Trad’s critique of President Donald Trump stopped there.
“It’s the will of God, so I’m happy because he chose him,” Trad said.
Mohamad Naser Trad is trying hard to learn English in college, because he feels that he cannot completely adapt until he speaks English fluently, but he is adapting in other ways.
“I try to make some grilled cheese, some quesadillas some stuff, yeah, I learned some, so I try it at home,” said Trad.
Trad said his experience in the United States has been different than the White House rhetoric.He has found Americans helpful and welcoming to his family, including the people who invited them to the Refugees Welcome dinner, coincidentally, on his birthday.At this dinner, Muslims, Jews, and people whose heritage span the globe all sit at one table.
“Really meeting somebody face to face can, I think, break down a lot of those stereotypes and that’s certainly an aim of this initiative,” said Gissou Nia, strategy director for Purpose, the group that helped start the Refugees Welcome initiative.
The aim is that these interactions don’t stop after dinner, but will organically continue on their own in all the communities where refugees are trying to start a new life.