In 1956, Rita Zawaideh's parents made the decision to move the family to the United States so that their children would have a better education. They left their large extended, Roman Catholic family behind in Jordan. They eventually settled in Seattle, where Zawaideh lives today.
In this story, Zawaideh talks about the difficult consequences of making choices when she was a young woman that her family did not agree with and about the love that came from an unexpected community.
Zawaideh is a leader in the Northwest Arab community. She runs a tour company that takes people to places like Iran, Sudan and Azerbaijan — where people can see the sights and also do aid work. She also is the founder of the Arab American Community Coalition of Washington state.
Someday, Zawaideh hopes to open a museum to display the many artifacts she's collected over her decades of travel throughout the Middle East. It will be called the Salaam Cultural Museum. For now, the organization exits online. It aims to create a better understanding of Arab Americans.
Sound Effect’s Jennifer Wing spent some time with Zawaideh in her office, which is just one block off of Highway 99 in Seattle. This is where staff book plane tickets for clients’ trips and where shoes, blankets, toiletries and other supplies for Syrian refugees pile up in almost every room.
Every two months, a 40-foot container leaves Seattle, headed for a distribution center in Jordan. From there, the supplies are sent to refugee camps.