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      Refugee Provider Symposium hits home for Iraqi refugee

      A s a nation recognized as the "melting pot", accepting and helping others new to our country is something many in the U.S. and locally in Amarillo are working to accomplish.

      T hursday was the first ever Refugee Providers Symposium. Hosted at the Amarillo Civic Center by Catholic Family Services, 14 providers like the Health Department, Refugee Services of Texasand local schools all gathered to discuss the ways they can work together to help refugees ease into our society.

      "We do things like core services," said Catholic Family Services Director of Communications, Dena Dyer. "Get them jobs, get them housing, get them health screenings and cooperation with the Health Department and also teach them ESL, English as a Second Language,"

      "They come from places and situations we could never imagine," said Dyer. "More recently it's been people like the Congolese, Somali and a lot of them are from Burma where there's been problems going on for about 25 years."

      New to our country, our cultures and our language, refugees are leaving one scary situation in their home country and being thrown into a completely foreign one here in the U.S. Musaab Alkhayatt, a former Iraqi refugee, understands both of those fears.

      "I'm originally from Baghdad, Iraq," he said. "I used to work for the U.S. Army for three years, 2003 to 2006 and that's why I'm here. People, they started threatening and killing the people who helped and worked for the U.S. Army and that's why we had to leave everything behind and move to Jordan."

      After living in Jordan for almost two years, Musaab, his wife and daughter came to the United States as refugees.

      "You don't know what's going to happen to you, where you're going to live, what you're going to do, where you're going to work," explained Musaab as he talked about the hardships of being a refugee.

      They were helped by Catholic Family Services and other similar refugee providers all looking to ease their transition to the states.

      Now, Musaab and his family live happily in Amarillo. He works for Catholic Family Services as a case worker and also attended Thursday's symposium to continue collaborating about ways to help other refugees.

      "Part of our history as a country is being welcoming to the stranger," added Dyer. "If we collaborate, we're going to help the refugees and be much more successful at trying to get them to be self-sufficient."

      That's something Musaab is thankful for.

      "I'm just happy," he said. "I'm just glad about my new life."

      Catholic Family Services hopes to make the Refugee Provider Symposium an annual event.