NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Seventeen-year-old Mahmoud Mahmoud is a refugee from Iraq who came to New Haven in 2014 with his family of 6. Now a senior in high school, he says the people in the city have made the transition to his new life much easier.
“It make me feel so happy and I can see that this is the real people, that they support other people and they like to help them out,” said Mahmoud.
This Sunday, Mahmoud will be participating in the Run for Refugees. The 5k is in its 10th year and raises money to support IRIS, the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.
“The program includes enrolling the kids in school, connecting the family to healthcare. We help them learn English. They might have some immigration legal needs, we’ll help them with that. Sometimes families are split up and we’ll help bring them together and we have to help them find a job,” said Chris George, director of IRIS.
This year the run is expected to break records. Registration jumped from 1,200 to 2,000 after President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Friday halting the refugee program for 120 days and suspending the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely.
“Refugees, I have to tell you, are worried. We’re sad and as I told refugees yesterday we’re sad and we’re angry that this has happened,” said George.
George says helping to calm fears is a tremendous support from the community. He says success stories like Mahmoud’s are proof the refugee programs need to continue.
“For us, we cannot go back to my country because it’s dangerous. We flee from my country because it’s dangerous,” said Mahmoud.
This year’s run has reached the maximum number of runners but George says everyone is invited to participate in a march from Wilbur Cross High School to the New Haven Green following the event.