Syrian Woman Finds Refuge In Nashville

Posted at 10:31 PM, Sep 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-18 19:04:22-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In what looks like any other apartment in Antioch, NewsChannel 5 found the unofficial Syrian capital of Middle Tennessee.

Kinan Alrifai's home was destroyed. Her father and mother were the only other ones who have made it to America so far.

“You are all the time scared that maybe you will die from one second to another, you can’t know anything,” Alrifai said, recalling the fear of living in a war zone.

“No electricity, sometimes you don't have water, you are afraid all the time,” she said.

She already had a visa from visiting her brother, a Vanderbilt doctor. After, escaping Syria, she made the difficult decision to leave her husband and two young children in Turkey.

“It’s very, very, very hard (to be away from them),” she said, “but I’m still waiting for their papers and I have to do that for their future.”

She's one of just 1500 refugees the US has accepted from the 4-year Syrian civil war. With the growing crisis, the President announced plans to accept 10,000 more.

However, that won't happen for months.

“To come to a local agency like ours, Catholic Charities involved, it takes a year,” explained case worker Nejib Adem.

Catholic Charities resettled 500 refugees around Nashville last year.

“We go to the airport to pick them up and take them to where their apartment is already furnished,” Adem said.

Most are from Iraq, Myanmar, the Sudan and Somalia. Only one was from Syria: Alrifai.

With a chemistry degree, she was a high school chemistry teacher before her home and her kids’ school were destroyed. Yet, she managed to escape her home with her diploma in hand.

Alrifai has been working at a warehouse. Her father is a civil engineer, but without asylum, her dad can't work or get access to health insurance.

Even so, she thought the future was bright. She had a car to drive to work and money to pay for gas. She said she loves Nashville, especially the people who live here.

“When I first came here I couldn't speak the language at all and I found a lot of schools, a lot of people who helped me a lot,” she said.

With persistence and a lot of patience, she believed she would be reunited with the ones she loves most in the next six to nine months.

“For their safety and for their future I’m still struggling,” she said with a smile.

She hoped to get her teaching certificate in Tennessee and once again teach Chemistry in a classroom.