Tri-Citians coming together to help former refugee fighting leukemia

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMay 18, 2014 

RICHLAND -- Cancer treatment hasn't exactly been a breeze for Mushtaq Jihad. He's had pain in his head, chest. Fatigue. Stomach problems too.

But Jihad, 42, of Richland, is staying strong.

That seems to be the story of his life.

The Herald first featured Jihad -- a native of Iraq who came to the U.S. as a refugee about six years ago -- in January.

He told of being kidnapped and beaten by members of a militia group in his home country, and then targeted as he pursued them in court. He told of a bomb blast, set by the group, that took his right leg and killed his infant son.

He told of facing yet another trial in his new home country. Last year, Jihad -- who has four young daughters -- was diagnosed with leukemia.

He also told of his desire to get back to work as soon as he's well enough, to support his family.

It's his goal, his way of showing that he's still standing tall, he has said. Jihad is hoping for a new prosthetic leg to help with that goal -- one that fits and is easier to move around in than the ones he's made do with over the years.

The community has responded, raising about $14,500.

Now, a yard sale and auction are planned in June to bring in the rest of what's needed. The target is $8,000.

Jihad said he's grateful -- to Badger Mountain Elementary School, where his oldest daughters are students, and where staffers organized a fundraiser that generated thousands of dollars.

And to others in the community -- friends and strangers -- who have pitched in to help and who've prayed for him. He still needs prayers, he said.

In Iraq, Jihad owned a string of electronics stores and his wife, Adela, worked as a bank manager.

Their troubles began in 2005.

That spring, Jihad said, he was kidnapped by members of a Shia militia group that would extort money from victims to buy weapons.

Jihad, who is Sunni, was able to escape, but pursued his kidnappers in court -- which made him a target for retaliation. The blast was set off outside his home in the spring of 2007, a few days after his son, Mohammed, was born.

He was taking the baby to the doctor when they were caught up in the explosion. The young father also was shot several times.

Jihad and his wife and daughters came to the U.S. as refugees not long after.

They have forged a new life here, settling in Richland, making good friends. They warmly welcomed a reporter and other guests at their apartment on an evening last week.

Jihad shared about his health and his goals, while Adela brought out refreshments and the girls -- their daughters are Fatima, 11, Zahraa, 9, Farah, 6 and Sarah, 22 months -- talked and played.

John Roach, a family friend who is organizing the June 21 fundraiser with fellow Columbia Center Rotary member Christy Watts, said he's been struck by how Jihad's struggles have resonated with people of all ages.

"There's this common element of being in awe of his resiliency and taking inspiration from his continued commitment to life, his family, to God, in spite of these incredible hardships," he said.

Jihad looked strong during the visit, though thinner than he had been a few months before.

He was determined. He will get back to work -- perhaps in electronics or cooking, as he's good in the kitchen -- to help his family, and he'll give back and help others the way the community has helped him, he said.

"(I'm) strong," he said. "People help me with my leg. I need to go to work and help people."

HOW TO HELP

A yard sale to raise money for a new prosthetic leg for Mushtaq Jihad is planned 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 21 at the Children’s Developmental Center, 1549 George St. SE., Richland.

An online auction featuring higher-value items also will be held as part of the fundraising effort.

Christy Watts and John Roach of Columbia Center Rotary are organizing the events.

Donations of auction and yard sale items are being accepted. For more information, call 736-2306, e-mail yardsale5080@yahoo.com or go to www.youcaring.com/mushtaq2.

Mattresses and old computers won’t be accepted for the yard sale, and any donated appliances must be in working order.

People also can make financial donations to the family now. For details, go to www.youcaring.com/mushtaq2.

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