Alaa Alwiswasi came to the U.S. with her family in October 2012 seeking safety, something she didn’t have in her childhood in the Middle East.
Because she was out of school and didn’t speak English, she didn’t have many opportunities to make friends or build connections outside of her family. “I felt like I was isolated from the community,” she told her mother, Amira.
She joined the YMCA in 2016 looking for something to be involved with. Since that time, as Alaa puts it, her life has completely changed. “I became healthier,” Alaa said. “I started my journey of losing weight.” She was encouraged to join classes and start working out, losing about 50 pounds.
Joining Full Circle
One of her biggest successes has been in joining Full Circle at Brentwood Family YMCA, a program that gives members of diverse abilities a place to grow and learn together. “I found what I needed,” Alaa says. “I found friends. I’ve found lovely people who teach me activities like music, crafts, singing, dancing, and even conversation.”
She recently passed the citizenship test with the help of her Full Circle program, who encouraged her to socialize and improve her language skills.
“Now, I spend most of my time with [Full Circle] doing things that I love,” she said. “God restored to me what I lost and gave me a new family and a safe country.”
Beyond her social successes, Alaa speaks so highly of her time with the Y because it gives her confidence. “I have friends. I spend time in Full Circle and every day I learn a new thing and I practice a new activity. My life has been transformed.”
She’s now giving back to the same Y that has helped her fight social isolation. “I’m working as a volunteer,” she said. “It’s my turn to pay it back.”