Fundraiser for Syrian refugee struck by car

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- A Syrian refugee who was struck by a car last week is still in a coma and his prognosis is uncertain, according to the head of an organization assisting his family.

"It's absolutely devastating. He was the breadwinner, obviously, and [his wife] has not been working out of the home," said Kari Miller, founder and executive director of International Neighbors, a nonprofit that helps connect refugees and the Charlottesville community.

Thirty-one-year-old Feras Alsaleh was hit by a car at the intersection of Route 29 and Hydraulic Road as he walked to catch a bus to work at University of Virginia Medical Center on Feb. 7.

Alsaleh, his wife and two young children had survived war-torn Syria, escaped to Jordan and arrived in Charlottesville as refugees in August.

Miller said Alsaleh had recently gotten his driver's license, and International Neighbors had secured a donated car for him to use, which he would have received in the days after he was injured. She said the family was outgoing and caring prior to the accident, connecting with people from all different backgrounds.

"They quickly made friends through our family friendship program as well as just neighbors," she said. "They were constantly having people over to share their meals."

Among those Alsaleh befriended were nextdoor neighbors and fellow Syrian refugees Alaa Alnewem and his wife, Nada. Struggling to make ends meet on his salary as a member of the UVA hospital housekeeping staff, Alnewem said he and his wife are now trying to help Alsaleh's wife and children, something he said Syrian culture encourages.

"We do our responsibility for my friend or my neighbor here," he said.

International Neighbors has started a fundraiser for Alsaleh and his family to help cover rent and medical expenses, and Miller said the support has been heartening.

"Anybody that met Feras was an instant friend," she said. "And so the outpouring of love and support that they're receiving from people, his employer, the boss he had at UVA, the neighborhood where he lives, it's been really encouraging."

For more information on the fundraiser for Feras or to find out how to get to know refugees through International Neighbors, click on the links in the Related Links box.

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