“I want to show the kindness that America showed me”: Local doctor raises money for refugee families

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dr. Saman Soleymani, owner of Avecina Medical, knows firsthand what many families will experience here coming from the Middle East.

“There was a crazy war between Iran and Iraq at the time, and a lot of people were displaced. My parents left Iran and we initially went to Europe. The ultimate goal was coming to the States.”

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35 years ago, that goal became a reality. The organization that helped Soleymani and his family resettle in Jacksonville was Lutheran Social Services.

“I came as an immigrant with my family when I was 12 years old not speaking a word of English, or not knowing the culture, and they were paramount in helping me assimilate (me) and my family, enrolling us in school and helping with translator services,” explained Soleymani.

It will be the same for the hundreds of Afghan refugees arriving here in the coming weeks. He remembers the fear he felt.

“They’re really not going to know what’s going on when they get here. I remember that anxiety as a child, not knowing what’s going to happen the next day, where am I going to go to school, who are my classmates.”

With the community’s help, more than $30,000 has been raised to help these families. Soleymani believes it’s investing in our city’s future.

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“I have zero doubt that amongst those kids that are coming are the next Dr. Soleymani, the next Dr. Modell, the next engineers, the next nurses, the next police officers; and so I want to show the kindness that America showed me 35 years ago now to these folks coming in,” exclaimed Soleymani.

All of the money raised is going to Lutheran Social Services, one of the resettlement programs directly helping the refugees assimilate here in Jacksonville.

To donate, head to the GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/lets-welcome-the-afghans.