In the heart of UNC Charlotte, counseling professor Dania Fakhro carries memories of a poignant symbol worn by her Syrian neighbors – keys to homes left behind due to conflict. These individuals, displaced by circumstances echoing the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, find their stories intertwined with a landscape of shattered buildings and countless lives lost. Fakhro, a native of Syria, bore witness to a surge of refugees seeking solace in her homeland, their keys hanging around their necks as tangible emblems of both loss and hope.
Contemplating the profound challenge of embracing a new life while holding onto memories of their homeland, Fakhro shared, “What is it like to be in a different place while keeping all the memories from your country at the same time you’re just trying to live and be active in your new society?” The stories she heard were laden with the anguish of witnessing family torture and enduring various traumas. Initially conflicted, Fakhro felt a deep desire to be a source of assistance, even as confusion mirrored that of those she aimed to help.
Despite an early career in economics at a bank and her pursuits as a classically-trained violinist, Fakhro’s life took a transformative turn during the escalating Iraq War in 2003. The influx of refugees into Syria prompted her to take action, volunteering with nonprofits dedicated to sheltering those in need. This experience not only opened her eyes but also set her on a new path.
Driven by a belief in the meaningfulness of her life and the capacity to help others, Fakhro’s commitment to supporting refugees through volunteering strengthened over time. Lacking formal training, she relied on her city knowledge and instincts to assist newcomers in navigating their unfamiliar surroundings, helping them access the resources they desperately needed. Today, Fakhro stands as a testament to the resilience and compassion that can arise in the face of adversity.