Where are you from?

I am a very interesting mix of different backgrounds. I was born in San Francisco to Jordanian parents whom are one half Lebanese and half Kurdish, and one half Palestinian and half Jordanian. I grew up between Oman and Jordan, then moved to Cleveland in 2007.

What was it like growing up?

Growing up in the Middle East was an interesting experience. Everything there is family oriented and culturally rich. I felt the difference when I came to live in the US at the age of 16. I knew America from the movies I watched, and living in America turned out to be different.

What brought you to Cleveland?

My dad had already been living in Cleveland for few years before I moved here. My main purpose of moving to Cleveland from Jordan was to finish my senior year of high school and get a college degree then move back. I did all that except moving back. I do not see myself living anywhere else.

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I was very excited and nervous at first. I had visited California in 1999 and 2000 but you know tourism visits are different than actually living here. I expected to get a lot of hate and racist remarks, but that never occurred. I always felt welcome since the first day I started high school here. It was hard for me as a high school senior to leave all my friends in Jordan and come to a whole new world. I expected to run to the mean football players in high school, but that did not happen. I expected to see segregation during lunch times in high school here, and that also did not happen.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

I did not face many challenges as I thought I would. The biggest challenge though was accepting the cultural differences. Middle Eastern culture is a very different, rich, and unique culture. I wanted to assimilate here and adopt whatever I can to adopt to become the best citizen that I can be. It took me a while but again, the friends that I made here helped make this challenge a rewarding experience.

What is your occupation?

I am the Director of Operations for an Adult Day Services agency that works with individuals with developmental disabilities, a free lance Social and New Media strategist, and the co-founder of a new Non-Profit Community Organization called The DO Project which aims to do more good in our communities.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

I give credit to Cleveland though because this is where I actually grew up as a person. I gained most of my life experience in here. People in Cleveland made that transition very easy. I will never forget my world history teacher in high school who actually played a huge role in making me feel welcome. He always gave me time in class to explain things about my culture, and this allowed for productive conversations often. I will also not forget my Alma mater Cleveland State University, which helped form the person I am today. I got active on campus in CSU, and this allowed me to mingle with as many students as possible. The diversity of CSU’s campus offered such a warm atmosphere for me and many other students. Moreover, being invited to Thanksgiving dinners is the best thing to make someone feel welcomed. I loved getting invites from Clevelanders to their homes for Thanksgiving. They made me feel like I’m at home, and the Thanksgiving culture grew on me to the point that it became one of my favorite holidays. Moreover, while being Muslim, I always got invitations to Christmas dinners. I loved attending those. Jordan is very known for it’s coexistence culture, and I was always proud to share that with my friends here. I love how positively spirited everyone gets around Christmas. Clevelanders sharing their holidays with me always meant the world to me. It’s one of many reasons why I love being a Clevelander.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

I continue to celebrate our religious holidays in Islam such as Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha. I fast during Ramadan every year as well. I also get to celebrate Mother’s Day twice a year which is very interesting. Our Middle Eastern Mother’s Day is March 21st, and the American one falls in May every year. I continue to celebrate both every year with my mother. She thinks she is very lucky for that.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I love the diversity, uniqueness, and the warmness of it’s people.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

It is very important because immigrants and refugees are people just like us. This amazing nation that we live in was built by immigrants, and continues to be the greatest nation because of immigrants working in it to make it so. People come to America to look for a new chance at life, and we owe it to them to give them this chance. Refugees are fleeing disastrous situations in their countries, and we might be the one place to offer them that hope they need to continue living in peace. It is such a rewarding feeling to make a refugee feel welcome in a new place. This is why our first fundraiser for The DO Project is called #ClevelandForCleveland and it aims to collect donations to help refugees resettling in Cleveland, and our homeless community. This is our way to tell refugees that they’re welcome here, and to also give back to our community.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

Traveling abroad is important because it opens up new perspectives in a person’s mind. You may think you know something about a place, but that will change when you actually visit that place. No knowledge is greater than a knowledge of a traveler.