From Syria to San Diego: A Family's Journey

The family of six resettles in San Diego including two developmentally disabled children who will receive services for the first time in their lives.

For siblings Emad, 12, Oday, 10, Ehdaa, 5, and Soundous Tysaan, 4, their father said he never thought he’d see the day all four of them would have access to education and have their first day of school be in San Diego.

The siblings enrolled in school in City Heights Wednesday after a more than three-year journey with their parents around the world. They first escaped their war-torn country Syria to Jordan. In Jordan, the family of six survived in a refugee camp. It took more than a year of interviews and background checks to move to the United States.

The two older boys have developmental disabilities. Their father, Abdalaa Tysaan, was shocked to hear they too can enroll in school and have an opportunity to receive an education.

“In Syria, they don’t have these services for special needs children,” he said through a translator. “They don’t treat special need kids the way they do in the U.S. Then when we moved to Jordan [to a refugee camp] we didn’t have any services for them.”

In fact, at 10 and 12 years old, the boys have never been seen by a medical professional and have never been diagnosed, Tysaan said.

San Diego, the nation's eighth-largest city, has received 626 Syrian refugees since Oct. 1, more than any other in the United States.

Tysaan decided they had to leave Syria when he feared their home would be bombed. The girls were still very small at the time, and he knew if a bomb hit he could not carry everyone to safety.

“This was the reason we wanted to come to the U.S.,” Tysaan said. “To have a better life here.”

Resettlement organizations like Jewish Family Service San Diego and Alliance for African Assistance help refugee families back on their feet when they make it to San Diego, many to City Heights. They help with basic housing, belongings and a small amount of money. Volunteers, especially translators, help the families adjust to their new communities.

Etleva Bejko, the Director for Refugee and Immigration Services for JFS said local data indicates there are about 600 Syrian refugees in San Diego and that number may grow the next fiscal year. She said that number will likely be influenced by the upcoming presidential election.

Tysaan said his highest hope in San Diego is for his sons to receive proper medical attention and for his daughters to reach their goals of being a teacher and a doctor.

For information on how to help local refugee families, you can contact the resettlement organizations through the websites Jewish Family Service of San Diego  and Alliance for African Assistance.

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