Michelle and Barack Obama invited Syrian scientist and refugee Refaai Hamo to sit in the First Lady’s box at the State of the Union address. Refaai garnered national attention after his harrowing story was documented on Humans of New York. Click through to learn more about this incredible man!
Refaai Hamo, 55, is the Syrian Scientist who captured the attention of hundreds of thousands after he was featured in a series about Syrian refugees on the popular blog Humans of New York. Now finally living in Detroit, Michigan, Refaai has been invited by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as a special guest to the State of the Union address on January 12; he’ll be sitting in the First Lady’s box. Click through to learn five facts about Dr. Hamo!
His family was killed in Syria
Refaai, who was identified as “The Scientist” when featured on Humans of New York, was forced to leave Syria after a missile hit his home, killing seven family members and nine neighbors, including his wife and one of his daughters. he relocated to Turkey with his four remaining children (three sons and a daughter) “with nothing”. But their life in Turkey was brutal, and the family sought to immigrate to the United States for a better life.
The Scientist is suffering from stomach cancer
Because of his dire situation as a Syrian refugee, Refaai has been without health insurance, and has been unable to treat his stomach cancer. He told HONY that he wanted to beat the disease so that he could “make a lasting contribution to humanity.”
Ed Norton fundraised for his relocation
When Ed Norton heard his harrowing story, the actor said he was “moved to tears,” and launched a fundraising campaign to help pay for Refaai’s cancer treatment, as well as the many expenses The Scientist and his family would face once in the United States. The successful effort managed to raise $464,225, and the amount of donations keeps growing. “Let’s reject the ‘anti-human’ voices that tell us to fear refugees and show this man and his family what Americans are really made of,” Ed wrote.
He’s a PHd engineer, but could not work in Turkey
Despite being a brilliant scientist and a prolific figure in Syria, Refaai was unable to get a job teaching engineering anywhere in Turkey. This includes a university that was using the textbook he wrote himself.
President Obama called him an “inspiration”
The President himself commented on HONY’s Facebook post, saying he was “proud” that Refaai would pursue his dreams in the United States. “As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you endured. You and your family are an inspiration. I know that the great people of Michigan will embrace you with the compassion and support you deserve. Yes, you still can make a difference in the world, and we’re proud that you’ll pursue your dreams here. Welcome to your new home. You’re part of what makes America great.”
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