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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida’s Syrian community is growing.
Today, March 15th marks the sixth anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War, when peaceful demonstrations transformed into an armed uprising after a violent crackdown by government security forces.
With their homes in the path of potential danger, almost five million Syrians have left their country looking for asylum in other parts of the world. Millions more are displaced within their own country.
CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana recently introduced you to the Sammounehs, a family of Syrian refugees who arrived just two months ago.
One of the people helping them settle into life in Miami is from Syria herself.
“My story is a little bit different, I’m here on an F1 visa,” Nour Hunaidi told Pastrana.
That visa means Hunaidi is not a Syrian refugee, but rather she’s a student who arrived here just six months ago.
“Let me tell you at the beginning, it wasn’t easy,” she said. “I came and knew nobody. New country. Lucky for me I knew English. Still, the communication wasn’t that easy.”
Nour says she has come to love South Florida and the people here but admits a piece of her heart remains in Syria.
“No matter what, home is home. Doesn’t matter if it’s destroyed. If it’s dangerous. At war. Home is home. It’s where your heart belongs,” she explained.
So when President Donald Trump signed his first travel ban executive order, barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries including Syria, she worried what it meant for her future and whether she’d be deported.
She says her parents had a visa to visit her this summer, but it was canceled.
Under the newly revised order, lawful permanent residents and people with current valid visas, like Nour, are exempt and not affected.
That’s a relief for her, but she can’t help but think about the people back home trying to make the trip.
“I cannot just detach myself because the situation is very important to me,” she said. “These people are very important to me. They are my family. They are my friends. They are my people. I belong to them and they belong to me. I carry their weight with me wherever I go as much as they do mine.”
And while some might blame the President for divisions created by his executive order, Nour says now is truly the time for everyone to come together.
“I would like to look directly into his eyes and tell him that I believe in him as a human being. There is good in him and the decisions that he’s making are coming from a good heart. He’s concerned about his country,” she said of President Trump.
“We can work together to make America great again and the world great again. If we just put our hands together and co-exist.”
Nour is getting her Master’s degree in business administration.
Under the F1 Visa program, she must maintain a full course of study.
While she’s here, she’s helping other Syrians, including refugees, feel at home by volunteering with World Relief Miami.
Jose Vega, the director of World Relief Miami, says 1,800 refugees arrived in South Florida between October 2015 and September 2016.
Some of the volunteers who helped the Sammounehs move into their home in Miami come from Australia, Somalia, Syria Jamaica, Cuba, Pakistan India and Romania.
For information on how you can support refugee families arriving in South Florida, visit miami.worldrelief.org.
The local art community is also coming together to help.
“Refuge in Paint” features the art of Syrian children. The exhibit will be held from March 29th to April 2nd at the Nader Art Museum Latin America.
The goal is to raise money for future “art interventions” in Middle Eastern refugee camps, as well as to educate people about the current state of the crisis.
For more details, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1246852795361798/.