Refugees in Connecticut get special Christmas delivery from Mrs. Claus

HARTFORD – Refugee families in Connecticut are experiencing Christmas for the first time.

The group Refugee Advocacy Services is spreading the holiday spirit by giving gifts to about 25 refugee families.

"These families are people just like anyone else who's in America,” director of Refugee Advocacy Services, Nancy Latif, said. “It's important that they know that they're welcome and that they find a comfort level here.”

Four volunteers from the organization gathered donations from the community and from Tangiers International Market in Hartford.

The organization based, out of West Hartford, packed up “The Refugee Advocates Sleigh Mobile” with bags and boxes full of gifts for the refugees.

The gifts include toys, clothes, houseware and sweet treats. Each family gets gifts which fulfill their individual needs.

The goal is to show the spirit of Christmas to these families who will be spending their first Christmas in the United States, even if they don’t celebrate it.

“It's important that they feel welcome in our society and start to learn about our culture, who we are and a part of who we are is at Christmas time we try to emulate the spirit of Christmas, the joy of giving which exceeds my opinion the joy of receiving,” Latif said.

The refugee families live in the Greater Hartford area: West Hartford, Hartford, East Hartford, Manchester, Bloomfield, New Britain and Berlin.

They come from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Congo and Chad.

“Many of them, especially the ones who have come from Syria, are leaving a war zone and they’ve been away from their homes or families for three or four years,” she said.

Two Syrian refugee families shared with FOX 61, through a translator, how they feel being in Connecticut.

“They’re really happy to be here they’re, like, getting into the culture and society very well. So far so good,” Latif translated for Syrian refugee Nadia Musalmeh.

Musalmeh is a mother of six and said she was speechless and grateful for her family’s gifts.

“The people have been so nice to us and they’ve made it so we have lacked for nothing and we’re grateful for that,” she said.

Another refugee now settled in Connecticut, Waseem, spoke of the hardships watching what is happening in his country.

“The unfortunate events that are happening in Syria aren’t really representative of the people,” he said. “They are very hospitable and very nice and it's sad that they're going through a civil war.”

Waseem said he is thankful for the U.S. for taking his family in, thankful to Connecticut for treating them well and that he feels welcomed and like an American here.

Deliveries started Wednesday and will be completed Thursday.