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Local families 'adopt' Syrian refugees

Posted: 6:06 AM, Dec 21, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-21 09:06:18-05

EL CAJON -- There's a new way to help the Syrian refugee families trying to adjust to their new lives in San Diego County.

The non-profit Heart4Refugees is connecting refugees to local families who want to "adopt" them. Marie Monforte said the images of the war-ravaged country compelled her to do something.

"At a certain point, you can't just not do anything anymore. If you actually force yourself to watch these videos, these images stay in your head," said Monforte.

Monforte was matched to Mahoumad Jasamalg Alagerab, his wife and their five children. The family has been living in a two-bedroom apartment in El Cajon for three months. The children slept on the floor until Monforte had bunk beds delivered Tuesday night.

"They've been through so much to get here, all those videos that you've seen, this is what they lived before they got here," said Monforte, who first met the family when she brought them Thanksgiving dinner.

"I asked the boys what they remember about the war and they said to me 'we try not to remember about the war' and I just didn't have the heart to ask them anything more at that point. I just thought how lucky am I that my kids don't have those visions in their head. I don't have to wake up at night to comfort them from their nightmares," said Monforte.

Alagerab told us through a translator how thankful he is for his American friends.

"Respect, he realize everybody respect each other," said Yasmin Alkhal Zeitouni, a translator and volunteer for Heart4Refugees.

He's sad for the people still in Syria.

"He still feels very bad. They get sad every single time they watch TV, their country, their neighbors," said Zeitouni.

Algaerab was a builder in Syria. His biggest concern now is learning English and finding a job. He wants to be able to support his family on his own.  He's willing to work anywhere.

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in San Diego County since May 2016. 

Right now, Heart4Refugees helps the family with rent, household items, employment assistance and youth programs. 

"I am originally from Syria and my heart breaks for what is currently happening in Aleppo and Syria in general," said Heart4Refugees Vice-President Kinda Arzon. "I am happy to use my network and make these connections happen between local families and the Syrian refugee families. A job like this takes a village and we are so grateful for the love San Diego is showing these families."