Mahmoud Albaradan had a thriving used car dealership in Daraa, Syria. But in 2011, anti-government protests propelled the city into civil war. As violence escalated, Mahmoud, his wife and their six children, along with his brother’s family of nine, fled for their lives. In 2016, after four years in a Jordanian refugee camp, they were resettled in Erie.
The family was devastated to have lost their beloved home, but Erie welcomed them. A neighbor helped them navigate their new city and fill out the endless paperwork that comes with any big move. The microenterprise program at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants of Erie, helped Mahmoud and his brother became small business owners once again. Erie offered “services (that) were very helpful to me,” he says. “They gave our business a lot of support.” They opened a used car dealership, AMB Auto Sales and Service. Today, Mahmoud’s business provides part-time jobs to three employees, contributes to the tax base and allows Mahmoud and his brother to provide for their families.
Today, Mahmoud considers Erie a dream city. “It’s very similar to Daraa,” he says. “It’s safe, affordable and the people here are nice.” Mahmoud gave a car to his helpful neighbor. After growing close with another neighbor, Mahmoud would frequently invite him to sumptuous Syrian dinners at his home. When the man died a few months ago, Mahmoud and his family mourned his passing and have been missing him ever since.
These relationships show how deeply Mahmoud and his family have invested in their community. They love their American friends. They worked hard to integrate and give back. Now Mahoud’s children aspire for careers helping others. His high-school-age children hope want to pursue engineering and pharmacy, and his younger children want to go into medicine, teaching, law enforcement and—fitting for a 6-year-old boy—car racing. It’s a future that fills Mahmoud with pride and one made possible by the welcoming community of Erie.