Former Iraqi refugee paying it forward by helping Afghan arrivals

‘Need of a family’ and his faith motivates Ayad Kaisi

SAN ANTONIO – Ayad Kaisi, slight in stature yet known for his big heart, is a former Iraqi refugee who has become an “ambassador” for the Center for Refugee Services as a devoted volunteer and board member.

Without family in the U.S., Kaisi said, “They are like a family to me. It’s become part of my life.”

“I’m still driven by the need of a family,” he said.

That, coupled with his faith as a Christian, is why Kaisi said he’s helping Afghan arrivals however he can as his way of paying it forward.

Kaisi, who worked as a petroleum engineer and later a businessman who sold dialysis machines in Iraq, became a U.S. military interpreter like many Afghan men who’ve come to San Antonio.

Kaisi also had to leave his country because of armed militias and instability after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He said many of his friends and colleagues were disappearing.

“They don’t come back again,” Kaisi said. “Then, later, we hear that they’re being simply killed and kidnapped.”

Up until then, Kaisi said he’d never considered coming to the United States until he had no choice.

When he applied for his visa in 2007, one of his sponsors was a military chaplain from La Vernia.

“Oh, I am going to La Vernia. I thought it was a big city or something,” Kaisi said.

The chaplain recommended Kaisi come to San Antonio because the climate is somewhat similar to Iraq.

Years later, having become a U.S. citizen, Kaisi said, “I’m now part of this great nation.”

About the Authors

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.

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