Refugee who made Jacksonville home helping others integrate to life in US

Neighborly, a crowdsourcing-based resource guide, is set to launch in June

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A refugee who made Jacksonville home is now helping others integrate to life in the United States.

Basma Alawee is a refugee from Iraq who arrived in the U.S. on Jan. 13, 2010.

“I have been calling Jacksonville home for the past 10 years,” Alawee told News4Jax on Sunday. “We have refugees from all over the world.”

When asked what does it mean to be a refugee, Alawee answered: “It’s a really tough question, but I can tell you, being forced to leave home, all that refugees look for is a home.

"A refugee is forced to leave home. Before we come, we go through a vetting process, so I went with my husband with my 1-year-old daughter through a very intense vetting process for two years, making sure I am safe to be resettled in the U.S., make sure I am healthy to be in the U.S. I was lost. My background is in engineering, and I actually left home because my husband was supporting the American troops in Iraq. We were forced to leave Iraq. We didn’t know where we were going to go.”

When Alawee arrived in Jacksonville with her husband and child, she said, she fell into a scam. She said there are other challenges refugees face.

“This is actually what we are addressing today. So the big challenge is the resources that already exist, but they are not connected," Alawee said. “We decided to make sure that we fill this gap. We make sure that our communities are well connected with the service providers and with the resources in Jacksonville. That’s why we decided to create a one-pager that lists all the trusted resources that our communities could use."

Neighborly is a crowdsourcing-based resource guide created by Project for Healing, Inc., and WeaveTales to help immigrants, refugees and low-income families in Northeast Florida better navigate the resources available in their areas. Neighborly is scheduled to launch in June, months after its original debut date in April, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“If people check WeaveTales.org, we have a Neighborly, COVID-19 resource page already there with a map. We have it in English and Arabic and we are trying to put it in different languages. Neighborly will be for all -- not just refugees and immigrants -- all people in Jacksonville will be able to use it," explained Alawee.

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