Refugee Family Moving On


Refugee Resettlement Ministry Update August 15, 2008

Wow, hard to believe that the summer is coming to an end. Even harder to believe that it has been almost 9 months since the Abtans joined our church family.  

So what has been happening in the Abtan household lately? Nafie is still enjoying his job at St. Mary's Hospital in the Central Sterile Processing Department. In his spare time, he tends to his vegetable garden (which the ground hogs have found to be quite delicious). Suhair continues to chase Mutaz full time, meets with Literacy Volunteers every Wednesday and volunteers at the Mosque in Danbury on Sundays.  

The Abtans have also enjoyed several outings with friends. Some of them include: NYC including Central Park Zoo with Walt Fisher, the Buccaneers BBQ/pool party at the home of Jeanine Hanewicz and Lou Memoli, blueberry picking with Liz DeLambert and Patty Buchan, Town Park Beach with Jennifer Wurst, and Lake Lillinonah with Laura Hancock. Yes, the summer has gone quickly but they were fortunate to have had special memories with many

Since the family arrived they have been told they could stay in the cottage for 9 months. This timeframe was recommended by IRIS as well as by leaders of CCB's first Refugee Ministry with Annie and Lloyd. Therefore, the apartment search has been underway with apartments seen in the greater Danbury and Naugatuck areas. Special thanks to Patty Buchan, Kathy Wandelmaier, Robin Murphy, Linda De Lucia and Tom Eaker for their tireless efforts in helping the Abtans with the apartment search.

So we are in the final stage of this ministry. Two years ago this family was fleeing for its life. They had left Iraq under threat of death. For many months, as refugees, they moved from place to place in Jordan seeking safety. Then our church welcomed them to Brookfield. It's exciting to know that we have, once again, supported and helped a family integrate into our community. It is this community that the Abtans have grown to love - they want to stay where they are most familiar and have their friends close by, but they also understand that it is time to move on.

As you can imagine, moving is stressful....please keep the Abtan family in your prayers.

Finally, hold the date!  The congregation is invited to an in-between session on Sunday, September 14 at 9:30 a.m. in Fellowship Hall. During this time, Chris George will do a short program around refugees and there will be an opportunity to ask the Abtan's and committee members questions about their resettlement experience.

Refugee Resettlement Update April 15, 2008

It has been almost 6 months since we received the blessings of the Abtans arrival. The goal of the
Refugee Resettle ministry was to get the Abtans to become self-sufficient within their first 6 months.
This goal has been set by the sponsorship organization Intergrated Refugee and Immigrant Services,
IRIS. The Abtans also signed an agreement with the government (an early self-sufficiency grant
program) stating that they would take the appropriate measures to reach this goal and which they
received a stipend to help assist in the successful accomplishment of this goal.

Self- sufficiency means that they are financially able to provide for their family and they know and
understand how to arrange and get to/from their daily activities that includes work, food shopping,
banking, ESL classes, literacy volunteers, laundry, babysitting etc..

The biggest step towards this is obviously being able to provide their own transportation. Nafie did
receive his driver’s license but he needed a job in order to afford a car. He got a job mid-March - so
now it was time to go car shopping. And just when we were about to do that, we received a donation of
a car from the parents of Monica McIlnerny. As of this Friday, April 25, the Abtans now own their first
car here in the US – a 1998 Oldsmobile.

So let’s review each committee’s goals and progress:

Clothing/household furnishings – goal: determine refugees sizes and clothing needs, circulate a
“needs list” for clothing and household goods, arrange to recycle unwanted donated items. Goal
accomplished by mid-December.

– goal: research refugee’s areas of interest and help to fulfill those needs,
research churches of refugee affiliation, help the refugee in becoming oriented in the community, show
how to shop, use public transportation, use emergency telephone numbers, understand local customs
and laws. Goal accomplished by December.

– goal: apply for Medicaid, food stamps, Women/Infant/Child program for Mutaz, schedule
and accompany refugees for health screening, arrange to have medical and dental needs of family met.
Goal accomplished by January

– goal: arrange ESL classes through adult education or church volunteers, tutor the refugee
in the English language. Goal accomplished by January – ESL classes continue through Mid-May then
again in September. Help refugee be able to take driver’s license test. Goal accomplished by March 1.
The committee felt that Nafie needed to improve his computer skills. We were fortunate to have a
volunteer from the Senior Center, Jack Scully, donate his time to work with Nafie one-on-one with
teaching him about the basics of Microsoft Office (a 6 week course). Jack started working with Nafie
on April 4, they meet every Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon until May 16th. Suhair is also
interested in learning the computer so Nafie shares with her what Jack has taught him.

- goal: research employment opportunities prior to refugees’ arrival, help refugee find a
job, enroll refugee in training programs or on-the-job training. Goal accomplished by March 19th.

Nafie is working at Stew Leonards in the meat department. However, given his medical background,
several committee members continue to help Nafie apply for entry level healthcare jobs.

– goal: drive the refugee to doctor appointments., ESL classes, literacy volunteers, food
shopping, laundromat, place of employment. Goal accomplished by May 13. During the 6 months, there
wasn’t any transportation request that hasn’t been filled.

– goal: teach refugees about budgeting - debit vs. credit, how to write a check and manage their own bank accounts, develop a budget plan that includes re-paying the travel loan extended to provide transportation to this country. Goal accomplished by April. Provide ongoing oversight of church
expenditures. Robin Murphy, finance chair, has developed a financial plan for the Abtans. They need to
pay 100% of the utility bills that will get paid directly to the providers. They will also start paying “rent”
beginning – which will be saved for 1st/last months rent + security deposit towards their future home.

Nafie is working at Stew Leonards in the meat department but given how costly it is to live in this area, it will be difficult for the Abtans to meet the financial objectives without a second job. Given his medical
background, we are hoping for a second job within a healthcare setting.

- On April 18th, Nafie and Suhair were reunited with friends that they had met while staying in a refugee facility in Jordan. The Alkabasis family (mother, father and 3 children ages 7, 5 and 1) are working through the International Institute in Bridgeport, for their resettlement. They are currently residing in a lovely 2 bedroom condo in Danbury.

Suhair is volunteering at the Mosque in Danbury. She teaches Arabic to children every Sunday from
10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. She is very excited about this opportunity.

Wow, looking at all that has been accomplished over the past 6 months it’s pretty amazing that we were able to do so much in such a short period of time. Kudos to all the committee members ….these goals could not have been accomplished without your generosity and care that you have given to the Abtan family!

Refugee Resettlement Update February 15, 2008

Matthew 25:35, 40:
"....I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me..for just as you did it to one of the least of these who are my sisters and brothers, you did it unto me."

The goal of the ministry is to be sure that the Abtan family is self-sufficient within 6 months of their arrival. We are approaching the halfway way mark. So how are we doing towards reaching our goals?

Employment has been the committee’s major focus. With the help of Steven Wurst, Nafie now has a resume that is suitable for the healthcare field. Jeanine Hanewicz is helping to fine-tune a resume for the pharmaceutical industry. Nafie had an interview at Danbury Hospital for the position of Histology Aide/ Pathology Department. We expect to hear if he got the job by February 29th. Many thanks to Steven Wurst, Jeanine Hanewicz and Patty Buchan for preparing Nafie for the interview. His resume has been posted on Monster and Academy of Pharaceutical Physicians and Investigators (APPI). We plan to also post Nafie's resume on CareerBuilders. In the meantime, we review weekly employment opportunities within local pharmaceutical and healthcare fields that match Nafie's skills. With help from IRIS, we have also applied at several local stores on Federal Road. 

Driving - On February 15, Nafie received his driver’s license. Kudos to Robin Murphy who prepared Nafie for this and for the use of her vehicle. 

Health - Mutaz, their 2-year -old son, had his evaluation for the W.I.C. (Women/Infant/Children) program. Nafie and Suhair received supplemental food stipends for Mutaz - this can be used over the next several months. They also received nutritional education specifically for Mutaz. Thank you Kathy Wandelmaier for your continued support in getting the family enrolled in all the healthcare programs.

Education - Nafie and Suhair attend English as a Second Language (ESL) classes every Tues and Thurs evening. They also continue with the Literacy Volunteers on Wednesdays. Both are doing excellent....

Housing - Linda DeLucia has shown rental apartments to the Abtans in Brookfield and Danbury. Nafie and Suhair have enjoyed looking at the possibilities of future homes. Obviously, what they can afford will be dependent on Nafie's salary. 

Finance - Robin Murphy and Hannah Brown continue to meet weekly with Nafie and Suhair to review budget plan, bank statements and transactions. They have also transferred all the utility bills to Nafie. 

While we are on target within many of our committee’s objectives, one major step in becoming selfsufficient is the ability to be financially stable. Finding employment has been our biggest challenge. We are praying that Nafie will obtain a job soon - so we ask that you hold him in your prayers as well. 

Our goals for March & April will be to focus on social activities (pot luck, getting to know the family, play groups for Mutaz, Park & Rec programs, etc.) If you know of any 2-3year-old play groups that Mutaz can attend, please call or e-mail Jennifer Wurst. We are also looking for volunteers to help with transportation and to work with Nafie on enhancing his computer skills. If you can help or have questions, please contact Jennifer Wurst or one of the pastors. 

Thank you for your support of our Refugee Resettlement Program!

Click on any of the images below to see additional news stories about the Abtan family.

Refugee Resettlement Update January 15, 2008

It has been approximately 9 weeks since the Abtan's arrived.....where does the time go?  Below is a summary of what great progress we are making on the various committees.  The goals for January are to focus on employment for Nafie (this is HUGE), transfer cottage utility bills to Nafie so credit can start building, driving and housing.

We are hoping to get Nafie a job within the healthcare field.  Nafie is an oncologist and also has worked in radiology.  He has 25+ years experience in the medical field.  However, coming to the US , he can not practice medicine until he reapplies for certifications - this may take a long time.  We are hoping to find him an entry level position within healthcare.  If you know someone who works in the healthcare field that can help us with the employment process, please contact Jennifer Wurst.

We also can use additional help on the transportation committee.   You may also contact Jennifer if you are interested.


-  Alex DeLucia is helping to coordinate employment opportunities within Danbury Hospital. 
- There is a doctor from the Mosque that works at Waterbury Hospital .  He is also looking at opportunities. 
- Efforts to focus on New Milford Hospital will happen during the month of January.
- The employee service coordinator at IRIS, Alejandro Holway, will be coming to Brookfield on 1/24 to start the application process for other job opportunities outside of healthcare.  He will focus in surrounding areas (Brookfield/Danbury/Newtown/New Milford). Nafie needs to start work and he is eager to do so.  He will need to take the first job that comes along just so he can start getting an income.  As you know, it may take a while before something in healthcare comes through.
- Studying for any kind of professional certification is something that Nafie will need to do along with working at something that will give him an income with which he can support his family.  In other words, professional certification is a long-term goalA job and basic self-sufficiency is and must be his short-term goal, even if that means sweeping floors or operating a cash register.  (Being on the road to the long-term goal should help him tolerate the frustrations of working at a job for which he is completely overqualified.)


- Medicaid has been approved for the family...YEAH!!!   Many thanks to Kathy Wandelmaier for working deligently (and patiently) with the Department of Social Service. 
- Dental appts. have been completed.  Many thanks to Dr. Kessler and his staff at Dental Associates for providing this service free of charge....they have been so wonderful to the Abtan's.
- Physicals at Brookfield Family Medicine have been completed for the Abtan family.  All is well.  Many thanks to the staff at Brookfield Family Medicine.  They have gone above and beyond in helping to accommodate the family.
-  Mutaz is eligible for WIC (Women, Infant, Children) program.  WIC provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education.  Kathy Wandelmaier is also helping the Abtan's with this program as well.


- Literacy classes start up again on the 9th.  They will continue on Wednesday's from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m.  Kudos to Liz DeLambert and Tom Eaker for bringing Suhair and Nafie each week.
- Registration for ESL classes are held at New Milford High School on 1/15 and 1/16.  It takes about an hour, as they meet with the teachers and take a test (to assessment English level).  Eleanor Loesch will plan to take them on the 16th.  We will then find out what their class schedule will be. 


- On January 3rd, Nafie reported that there wasn't any running water at the cottage.  John Morrison had been called.  John was able to get someone to fix the problem.  Turns out that they needed to replace the well pump - $1,800 later - all is well (no pun intended).  Thank you John for all you did to get the water back at the cottage in less than 24 hours.


- Linda DeLucia will show the Abtan's a few rental appartments in Danbury .  This will provide the Abtans with help in understanding the big picture. The cottage is lovely and spacious but it's important for them to understand what's out there.   


- Robin Murphy and Hannah Brown have been working hard at educating Nafie on all aspects of banking (i.e. ATM, transactions, debit vs. credit cards etc. etc.).  They have also put together a budget plan for the family.  This ensures the timeframe of self-sufficiency.  They will plan to meet weekly and also to transfer utility bills over to cottage.


Nafie does not require a driver's permit to start driving.  Therefore, if anyone feels comfortable in taking him out driving, please feel free to do so.  Nafie is an excellent driver.

Refugee Resettlement Update December 15, 2007

On November 5th we received word that there was an Iraqi family of three (Nafie, Suhair and 2-year-old son, Mutaz, Abtan) coming to the U.S. on November 13th.  Interfaith Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), the sponsorship organization, felt that this family would be perfect for our church community, and they couldn't have been more right!

The first step in preparing for the Abtan family was getting the cottage in order.  Thanks to Donna and Tom Eaker for taking on the task of organizing the cleaning crew.....that crew of angels included Laura Hancock's girl scout troop, Kay, Kathryn,and Colleen, Jennifer McSherry, Patty Buchan, Laurie Matson, Mike Anastas, Jennifer Wurst, Harry Gerowe, Tom Nolan, Alex DeLucia and Bob Bergman.  Thank you all for taking the time to help.

Then it was the call for food and household donations—again, thanks to Donna Eaker for coordinating, but most importantly, thank you all for your donations.  The cottage was completely stocked and ready for our new Church family by Monday, November 12th.

After traveling 20+ hours (with a 2-year-old) to get to America, the Abtans arrived safely on Tuesday, November 13th.  Robin Murphy, Gordon Markiewicz and Jennifer Wurst greeted the family in New Haven and brought them to their new home in Brookfield. When they saw the cottage with all the furniture, food and everyday necessities, they were overwhelmed with joy. Now it was time for them to get settled in their new home.

It has been one month since the Abtan family arrived at the cottage.  And what a month it has been!  Trips to grocery stores, Laundromat, library, post office, bank, the mall, Planet Play, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Stew Leonard's… English classes that require homework, dental appointments, Thanksgiving with the Buchan's, TV/newspaper interviews, Social Security Office, Department of Social Services etc., etc. Needless to say it has been a very productive month.

When we asked the Abtans what they were most surprised about since their arrival, they responded, "we were surprised by all the good people that help us in the church" and also "we see our home filled with everything".  They were also surprised to see the snow!

In the next few months we'll begin to see the more interesting and challenging aspects of our two cultures -motivations, beliefs, values.  We'll see differences, and similarities in marriage, parenting, and religion.   Mostly, we'll be privileged to get to know a young family, starting a new life far from their home.  We'll be part of their search for the American dream. How special is that?

If you would like to be a part of this wonderful ministry, please contact Jennifer Wurst


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