Nadin Yousef and her family endured life in Bagdad, Iraq, under American occupation. After the United States pulled out of her country, a civil war ensued, and it became too dangerous.
“Civil war is bad; you don’t know who the enemy is or who will knock on your door in the middle of the night,” said Yousef.
Yousef took her four children and fled for safety in Syria, only for that country to become embroiled in its civil war. Once again, Yousef picked up her kids and escaped, this time to Turkey.
Even though there was no war, life in Turkey had its problems. Language difficulties compounded the work restrictions that the country imposed on her family, all while her savings were being depleted. Just as she returned to Iraq despite its dangers, she learned that she would get a visa to come to the USA, and her cousin, who was living here, could sponsor her.
As she settled into life here, Yousef turned her hobby of macrame into a business. Macrame is the art of tying cords or strings to make decorative items such as plant holders, cat swings, and decorative wall hangings. Macrame by Nadeen started at the West Side Bazaar, an incubator for immigrants and refugees to set up small businesses. She has since moved to market her wares on Etsy, Facebook, and TikTok. She also teaches classes in macrame.
Yousef’s entrepreneurial spirit is strong. In addition to growing her small business, she is an investor, works in real estate, and still works full-time at a local bakery.
When she first moved to Buffalo, she was concerned because she heard Americans were prejudiced and rude to Muslim women who wore headscarves.
“I was worried about that, but when I came, it was different,” Yousef says. “People still stop me and compliment me on how I arrange my headscarf and match it with what I wear.”
Yousef adds that she has felt very welcome in Western New York but adds that Americans born here could be more welcoming by not assuming all refugees are the same–that they come with different dreams and hopes for their families. She says getting to know their individual story can help them feel heard and understood.
Welcoming Week is a national campaign and celebration to showcase communities that strive to “be more welcoming places for all, including immigrants.”
Since Buffalo’s nickname is “The City of Good Neighbors,” our theme is Being a Good Neighbor Starts with a Welcome!
Here are profiles of local foreign-born people describing their journeys and how Western New York welcomed them, with the hope that their stories can illustrate the many ways to be a good neighbor.
Were you born in another country? What is your story? How were you welcomed in Western New York? Let us know!