December 2018 | Written by Lisa DiLullo | Photo by Lena Kovalenko
Daad Serweri arrived to the U.S. in 2017 from Afghanistan with a special immigrant visa he obtained working with the U.S. Armed Forces.
When Taha Al-Hayder says 2018 was his lucky year, he’s not kidding!
In October, the 29-year-old Iraqi native became a first-time home buyer, just seven months after earning his American citizenship. IRIS heard about his exciting news after he invited his former Case Manager, Linda Bronstein, to his house warming party. But it’s clear that behind his “luck” is some incredibly hard work, resourcefulness, and persistence.
The youngest of five children, Taha said he never intended to leave Baghdad because his sisters were there. Although his sisters were married, Taha said he felt obliged to look out for them. He was managing to save a little money while working full-time and attending school. But as the Bath party made things “difficult”- particularly for young men like Taha who worked for the U.S. military – he knew it was time to leave Iraq.
After a three-year resettlement application process, Taha and his mother arrived in the United States in 2012. As a young man in Baghdad, Taha had worked full-time and attended school.
Once in America, Taha and his mother settled into an apartment furnished by IRIS, and IRIS staff also helped him find a first job.
“I depended on carpools to get to my job, because I didn’t have a car,” he explained. “When the carpool broke up, I had no way to get from my apartment in New Haven to the job in North Haven. So that job was gone.”
Undeterred, Taha searched for and landed a series of temporary placement jobs. Over time, he obtained a driver’s license and bought his own car. And he dreamed of bigger things.
“About two or three years ago, I began thinking of buying my own home,” he said. “I found a place for my mother and me, but the mortgage didn’t go through.”
As “luck” would have it, Taha was offered permanent employment at a temp assignment he had taken at a Branford manufacturing facility. While he didn’t know it at the time, this job would provide the income stability needed to buy a home.
“I was there a few months, and they offered to train me in CNC, computerized numerical control. Of course, I accepted even though I’d never seen machines like this.” He still works there today, five years later.
At one point, Taha added two part-time jobs to his full-time employment to save enough money to buy a home. He just recently dropped one part-time job, making space to take a course or two a semester at Gateway Community College.
And he ramped up his search for a home to buy. “In July, I started looking at a lot of homes. My deadline to do this was the end of this year,” he said.
The home search brought him to the tan Cape Cod home in New Haven, which he selected as the home for his mother and himself.
“The process of buying this home was not easy. The paperwork was very difficult. There were many, many questions about income. But I knew it was worth it. The rent money I was paying the landlord is the same as I would pay for my mortgage.”
On October 12, his dream of home ownership came true when Taha closed on the three-bedroom home. It sits on .29 acres.
“It’s great! No one is living above or below me. And I love having my own yard! There’s so much joy to go out there, to enjoy my hookah and just look around. I’m a lucky guy!”
For other young men aspiring to buy a home, Taha has some advice.
“Stay in one job, keep that stability. While you’re working, you can always look for something better.”
To be sure, Taha is looking at new goals now. In 2019, he plans to build a garage for his home. He hopes one day to buy a second, larger home for himself and his mother, and rent out his current house.
And one last message?
“Work hard, play hard,” he said. “It’s real!”