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Ahmed Alsrya
Ahmed Alsrya at the Charlottesville Festival of Cultures.
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Ahmed Alsrya in front of a Charlottesville Fire Department vehicle.
Ahmed Alsrya, pictured here with William Hogsten the Battalion Chief at Charlottesville Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of Ahmed Alsrya)
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How do you take care of others when you need to heal yourself?

While refugees are subjected to medical tests and scrutiny during their resettlement process, issues of mental health can last for decades or -- left untreated -- for lifetimes. In his early 20s, Ahmed Alsrya worked at a car wash to help support his family. He was glad to have a job, but felt like his life wasn’t going anywhere. For a while, Ahmed’s daily English was summed up in two words: “windows and wheels.” Eventually, his rut became a depression, spurred by tough memories of being a refugee - like the time his Palestinian refugee camp caught fire; or the time his mother was shot; or losing friends to the war in Iraq.

Today, Ahmed is out of his rut and jokingly refers to himself as a trauma specialist. In Charlottesville, he became a volunteer firefighter and joined a group of concerned refugees who want to help their communities heal. Through special training, he is now helping peers break down the stigma of mental health and face their traumas together.

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