It is hard to imagine having to say goodbye to the friends, neighbors and home you love. That is exactly what the Gailani family were forced to do when they left Iraq in 2011 as refugees. The Gailanis are part of our Children’s Home Initiative (CHI), an intensive support program for extremely low-income and formerly homeless families, and they live at our Sierra Ridge community in South Austin.
Salwan found a job as a dishwasher at a hotel and was making only slightly above minimum wage. The family struggled to adjust to their new life in the United States – everything, including the language, was unfamiliar and the cost of living was high.
Salwan and his wife, Sawsan, eventually learned about Foundation Communities through local refugee advocates and friends. Now that the Gailanis have a safe, stable place to call home and access to an on-site case manager and other support services, the entire family has made great strides.
Through the CHI program, the Gailanis participated in financial counseling and have been able to open a savings account and purchase their first car. Salwan, who still works seven days a week at a hotel, said this has relieved some of the family’s financial strain. The family has also relied on their case manager to assist them with paying bills online, filling out important documents and making doctor’s appointments.
“Our case manager helps with everything,” Sawsan said.
Two of the Gailani children attend nearby St. Elmo Elementary School and come to our Learning Center to do their homework and play outside with their friends. All of the children are excelling at learning English and flourishing in school.
The Gailanis’ progress aligns with the overarching success of our CHI families. Of the 45 families that graduated from the 18-month program this year, 87% fulfilled a financial literacy component and 98% of the children in the program improved or maintained their academic performance.
Despite being uprooted from their country, the Gailani family is remarkably optimistic and hopeful. Salwan and Sawsan welcomed their fourth child, Saife, just a few months ago, and they envision a bright future for him and their family as a whole. Salwan plans to buy a home one day, Sawsan is actively working towards earning her GED and the kids all have dreams of their own.