A happy ending is in sight for 3-year-old Mustafa al-Nadawi, who was deafened in an American air raid in Iraq in 2007 and given new hearing this year through the efforts of Bay Area residents, including many from Marin.
Mustafa and his father arrived in San Francisco on New Year's Eve. After he received a free cochlear implant at the University of California at San Francisco and tuition to a school where he could relearn how to hear and talk, new challenges arose. His mother, Kawthar, and younger brother, Maadh, were living in a Baghdad suburb that was under constant attack from Shiite militants; Mustafa's dad, Ghazwan al-Nadawi, feared a return to Iraq because his trip here might inspire revenge from Iraqis who hate America.
Two weeks ago, the good news came: Mustafa and his dad have been granted asylum in the United States.
Mom and little brother will receive visas to come here and the family will be able to start a new life. "I am happy that my boy will never again hear the sounds of war," Ghazwan said.
At the same time, he worries about supporting his family.
Until now, he and Mustafa have been supported by charitable donations: free residency at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco; speech therapy paid for by the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Tiburon; physical support, liaison and more from members of the grassroots Ruth Group, based in Marin.
Group founder/leader Ruth Friend of Mill Valley and colleague Amy Skewes-Cox of Ross, who organized Mustafa's stay in the Bay Area as a gesture of atonement for America's role in the Iraq war, are now seeking ways to support Mustafa and Ghazwan's family as they begin a new life here.
"Basically, they have nothing," Friend said.
She has set up a nonprofit called Citizens Reach Out, partnering with the Alalusi Foundation in Hayward, to receive donations to continue Mustafa's education. The Ruth Group will continue to help the family in other ways until Ghazwan finds a job.
Ghazwan's English is still a bit rusty, but he is computer savvy and has a doctorate in media and public relations, which he taught at Baghdad University.
He was assisted in getting asylum by an immigration lawyer hired by Hesham Alalusi, an Iraqi-born soils engineer living in the East Bay. Ghazwan's wife and younger son should arrive within two to six months.
Meanwhile, hearing specialists are looking for an appropriate school where Mustafa can continue his studies, learning both English and sign language.
Friend and Skewes-Cox are hopeful that community members will continue to help the family. So far, the Pacific Primary School in San Francisco has pledged to furnish a kitchen; Marin's Image for Success has provided new clothes; local dentists have performed dental work.
Ghazwan expressed gratitude to a long list of people who have helped him so far, including No More Victims, the agency that brought him and Mustafa from Iraq to San Francisco; the doctors at UCSF who operated on Mustafa pro bono; and the company that donated the cochlear implant.
But now, he said sheepishly, we want, "more, more, more" so they can find their footing in a new land.
Skewes-Cox said the Mustafa story is "a speck of light, so miraculous, to come out of this tragic war."
To help with Mustafa's continuing education and therapy, make checks to the Alalusi Foundation/Mustafa Educational Fund, and mail to Ruth Group, Box 722, Mill Valley 94941.
Contact Beth Ashley via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org