Narjes Al Hraishawi, 14, ties her younger sister’s, Fatima’s, hair Asinat, right, 2, tries to grab her headband from her older brother, Ali, 12. Abbas, left, 17, watches Youtube videos before driving two of the children to a carnival. The family’s children range from 17 to a year and a half.
2 / 16
Photos of all nine of the Al Hraishawi children are taped to the wall of Hussein’s room. The entire family was born in Iraq, but some of the older children were spent their whole childhood there.
3 / 16
The Al Hraishawi family and Toni, a family friend and translator, break their fast on the last day of Ramadan on Monday, June 3, 2019, at the families home. It was one of the last nights that their father was there before he left again to work in Iraq.
4 / 16
Zaynab Al Hraishawi speaks to her husband, Mohammed who's currently working in Iraq, about a possible eviction from their apartment, while Abbas, left, asks his mom to speak to his father to ask for permission to get money to go to a movie with his siblings on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. "You have to pay for the rent, for the school, and for the kids fun," said their father, Mohammed.
5 / 16
An Iraqi proverb about overcoming the adversities of life marks the room of Hussein Al Hraishawi. He wants to write all over the walls, but public housing inspectors come by the house a couple of times a month so instead, he erases old ones and writes new ones.
6 / 16
Asinat, 2, looks out the family’s living room window towards downtown Columbia, Mo. The youngest children constantly want to play outside, but their older siblings fear for their safety and their mother is usually taking care of the other kids, preparing food or taking care of other house tasks.
7 / 16
Abbas, 17, tried to land a kick on his younger brother, Hussein Al Hraishawi, 15, while practicing Karate on Saturday, May 12, 2019, in a parking lot near their home in Columbia, Missouri. The brothers learned Karate form their uncle back in Iraq. "If he hit me once, he win," said Hussein, referring to his brother, Abbas.
8 / 16
A drawing made by the family’s younger children is stuck on their bedroom wall on Wednesday, May, 29, 2019 while Hussein talks to his father. Mohammed came back to spend time with his family in the US for the month of Ramadan.
9 / 16
Narjes, Abbas, Ali, and Fatima walk out after watching “Hobbs & Shaw”, an action-comedy movie on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, at Forum 8 theaters in Columbia, Mo.
10 / 16
Zaynab Al Hraishawi watches the sunset with her daughters, Fatime, 8, left, Zahra, 1, bottom, and son, Baqer, 4, right, on Friday, August 9, 2019, outside their home in Columbia, Missouri. The family came to the United States on December 14, 2017, after their father, Mohammed, received death threats from Iraqi militia for working with the American military. His driver was murdered by the militia after giving them the family's home address. The family of 11 rents two small apartments in section 80 public housing. Their father has been in Iraq for the past four months continuing his job as a Project Supervisor for the United States Army Core of Engineers to provide for his family, as his wife doesn't speak English and is unable to work.
11 / 16
Al Hasan, Abbas, and Fatima ride the carousel at the Wade Show Carnival on Friday, August 23, 2019, at the Columbia Mall in Columbia, Mo. It was the siblings’ first time going to a carnival in the US.
12 / 16
Zahra begs her mother Zaynab for a chip snacks. Zaynab tends to look after her three youngest children at all times since they are able to go to pre-school yet and the family can’t afford a day-care.
13 / 16
Narjes, 14, center, pays for the families groceries with money she got from her mother. Their mother is unable to speak English on a level high enough to get groceries on her own so she often relies on her oldest children to do those tasks.
14 / 16
Fatima, 8, plays with her older Brother's, Abbas, 17, beard while waiting to watch a movie on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, at Forum 8 movie theater in Columbia, Missouri.
15 / 16
Zahra, 1, the youngest of the family, grabs onto her father Mohammed Al Hraishawi on the last day of Ramadan, on Tuesday, June 3, 2019, at their home in Columbia, Missouri. Their father plans to return to Iraq in a few days in order to continue his job as a Project Supervisor for the United States Army Core of Engineers. While their father is away, the paternal responsibilities are passed onto 17-year-old Abbas, who's a Junior at Douglass High School. "It's hard to take this decision," said Mohammed. "Of course, it's hard for me to be away from my family.
16 / 16
Mohammed Al Hraishawi caresses his son as he falls asleep after he returned home that night after nearly four months of being away for work in Iraq. Mohammed plans to stay in the US for the next couple of months to assure the families living situations and gain a better hold for how their future will be before he leaves again for Iraq.
Iraqi militia murdered Mohammed Al Hraishawi’s work driver. His address was known and his family of nine children ranging from four months old to 15-years old was in danger. On December 13, 2017, they packed their bags and left the rough two-million person populated southern Iraq port city of Basra to the 130,000 midwestern city of Columbia, Missouri.
The family received aid from local immigrant aid groups for the first year of their relocation, but after two years in the US, Mohammed is having trouble financially supporting his family, as his wife doesn’t speak English well enough to work and has to look over the toddlers, cook and clean the two apartments they rent from public housing. In Iraq, he worked as a supervising electrical power engineer for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The master’s degree he got in Iraq doesn’t translate to US work qualifications which leaves him unable to fully support his large family—so he has to travel to and from Iraq for months on end to make enough money. While Mohammed is away, his three oldest children, Narjes, Hussein, and Abbas, are left with the duty of acting as parental figures for their siblings and help navigate the problems their family faces while still trying to grow up as regular teenagers in an area they weren’t born into. “It's hard to take this decision," said Mohammed. "Of course, it's hard for me to be away from my family."
This photo essay aims to show the lives of a group of immigrant children who help take care of their family while still experiencing their normal lives as teenagers.
“Inshaallah” is a common Arabic phrase meaning “If God wills.” It’s a phrase I grew up hearing as a sort of blanket response to the hardships, pleasures, and regular moments of life; as if to put away your worries and continue living life.