In 2007 Ibrahim and his wife Samaa fled the war Iraq. They are an older couple and left their entire lives behind. Ibrahim had been a marketing executive for an oil company and both he and Samaa had university educations, including study abroad. They had raised their children and were looking forward to a return to peace, and with it a peaceful retirement. But the war raged on, their children and grandchildren had already left, and they could no longer live in fear and without even basic services.
The couple was resettled by IRIS in New Haven last August. Ibrahim speaks English so he frequently provides translation for other Iraqi refugees in the community. But he is elderly and unlikely to find a regular full-time job. Samaa is finally receiving medical treatment for conditions long untreated, and she also does some translation work on a contractual basis. However, it is very difficult to make ends meet--even just pay rent and buy groceries--with just their meager $1,000 monthly income.
A proud couple, Ibrahim and Samaa have been humbled by the experience of "shopping" at the IRIS Food Pantry. But they are so very grateful that this program exists. They explain that they are able to supplement their food assistance with additional fresh fruits and vegetables, rice and dairy products. They do not feel they are accepting "charity" because they are already IRIS clients, and the best volunteers at IRIS help them maintain their dignity by providing a true "customer service" environment.
Ibrahim expressed his gratitude to the United Way for its IRIS Food Pantry grant this way: "This is an excellent idea. I wish it could be accessible to everyone!"