Bashar & Fady Antoon
Wright State Graduates; Mechanical Engineer and Financial Analyst (respectively)
Many people come to the United States chasing the American Dream and greater opportunity for themselves and their families. But for many refugees, like brothers Bashar and Fady Antoon, coming to America was not a choice–it was a means of survival.
Despite being uprooted from their comfortable lives in Iraq and forced to restart from square one in America as refugees, Fady and Bashar have fallen in love with this country and Dayton.
We came to Dayton in April 2009 with my family as refugees seeking political asylum. We left Baghdad, Iraq in 2007. After we were forced to leave, we went to Lebanon and applied to the UN to come to the United States as refugees.
Bashar: It took nearly two years to get our application processed and complete all the background checks to be accepted to the United States.
Fady: When we applied to the UN to come as a refugee they select people to go to a specific city based on the needs of the city and area. We were selected to go to Dayton. When we applied, my dad didn’t know where Dayton was so he took the map and was looking everywhere to try and find Dayton and he couldn’t find it.
Bashar: There were bigger cities with higher immigrant populations like Detroit or San Diego that we wanted to go to, but because we didn’t have a close family relative to sponsor us we couldn’t go.
Adjusting to Life in Dayton
Fady: The first challenge we started with was we started our life from point zero.
Bashar: When we came here in 2009 there was the recession. It was really rough for us to find a job. It took us a while and we didn’t have a car for a while.
Fady: Most jobs I got it was not that someone was helping me; it was that I differentiated myself and made myself a strong candidate for the job. Some friends helped us, but most of it came from helping myself.
Bashar: Mostly friends and the church community helped a little bit but it was more about us. We didn’t know of Welcome Dayton at the time. In the first month, Catholic Social Services helped a lot because they were responsible for getting us settled.
Life as a Refugee
Bashar: We need to differentiate between refugees from other[immigrants]. These people have been forced to leave their home country; they don’t have a choice. They can’t go back to their country, to their normal life, their schools and their homes. They need people to welcome them and help them get back to where they are before. It’s not people who are comfortable trying to seek the American dream; these are people who never thought about leaving their home country, and they wouldn’t have left unless they were forced to leave. That was the case for us. We never would have thought about coming to the United States. I mean, I love it now–this is my country and I am an American citizen–but we were happy and stable where we were until we were forced to leave
Fady: Emotional help is even more important than financial help.
Bashar: Some people, when they see refugees, they want to help with financial things, which is good, but what would help more is emotional support. Support them. Be a friend to them. It’s not just by giving things; it’s also about being there for them as a person.
Thriving in Dayton
Fady: I’m very excited for the future. Being in the city of Dayton, giving back to the city of Dayton, I’d like to see more jobs created, I’d like to see the economy improving which is one thing that’s been doing really good over the past two years.
Bashar: I love the city and I love Dayton. After college I had the opportunity to leave Dayton, but I was happy to stay with the friends and family I have here and with the connections I have built in the community. I’m excited about giving back to the community and helping inner city kids here.