GEORGIA – Having tasted the pains and agony of being forced to leave their homes, Syrian refugees in Clarkson, Georgia, have rushed to help Americans who are going through the ordeal of evacuating their homes due to Hurricane Irma.
“I called my sister Nora and we got cooking,” Abeer al-Sheikh Bakri, 28, told HuffPost on Tuesday by phone.
They drove an hour to the Hamzah Islamic Center in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Sunday evening, where they said about 39 evacuees were riding out the storm.
One day earlier, they went grocery shopping and prepared Middle Eastern dishes like tabbouleh and kebab.
“We were uprooted from war,” Abeer said. “We know the feeling of leaving everything behind.”
“I was so afraid when we heard about the hurricane,” Nora, 30, said. “Especially us Syrians. We’re already traumatized.”
The sister refused to get refunded for what they bought from the mosque, saying they were happy to help those in need.
“I wanted to be able to help these people, so that these people can feel happiness,” she said. “So they don’t feel uprooted like how we felt.”
“We are the same as Americans. We don’t wish ill on anyone. This is within our nature as Syrians. This is what our religion tells us to do, to give and help those in need.”
The Bakris are accustomed to cooking for large groups. They’re currently working on starting a catering company called Sweet and Savory.
Dr. Mona Megahed, a pediatration and the vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the Syrian Community Network, a nonprofit that helps Syrian refugees in Georgia, said that every time she would visit them, “they would offer these amazing entrees and we told them that they needed to sell this stuff. Too good not to be shared.”
In Tucker, Georgia, Nazer Ghazal, a 53-year-old Syrian refugee from Damascus, delivered a home-cooked meal including rice, chicken and salad, to Masjid Omar Bin Abdul Aziz mosque on Sunday where approximately 25 evacuees sought shelter.
Like the Bakri sisters, Ghazal understood the feeling of leaving everything behind and starting new.
“We were forced to come to the U.S. because of the war, but we’re here now and see good in this country,” he said Tuesday. “It’s on us now to do good here.”
The Georgia climate is new to him and it’s his first time experiencing a hurricane, he said.
“We’re used to wars but not hurricanes. We weren’t that afraid, to be honest. We’ve been through war.”
The Syrian refugees hint to help Irma evacuees did not go unnoticed.
“The food looks fantastic and what a wonderful gesture. Best wishes to your new beginnings from Portland, OR and welcome to your new home!” said Stephanie Estby on Facebook when she saw photos of the sisters’ meal.
“What a selfless and lovely gesture. Everything looks absolutely delicious! Welcome to our country and best of luck to you,” wrote Claudia Maus from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
“I hope that you’re treated with kindness and respect here and your business thrives for many years to come!”