NEW PORT RICHEY — Not long after his story came out, the help came in.
Ibrahim Yagoub, a refugee from war-torn Sudan, has received nearly $3,000 in donations after a recent St. Petersburg Times story reporting his family's plight after he lost his job last year. But he knows it's not something he can count on again.
"I pay rent, my insurance for car, my electric bill, my telephone bill," he said last week. "I'm happy right now, but I think of tomorrow. I need job. So I don't have to go to people and say, 'I have no money.' "
Yagoub had achieved some success after arriving in Pasco County in 2001 through the help of a refugee agency. He found a steady job with a New Port Richey sprinkler company, bought a house and welcomed his wife and five children here in 2006. He became a U.S. citizen in 2007.
But things began falling apart early last year.
Yagoub got laid off from his job of seven years. He couldn't pay his two mortgages and lost his house. His wife, Khadiga, fell ill — her face swells, she has no appetite, she has a hard time walking — and doctors can't say what is wrong with her.
Fellow Sudanese refugees in Pasco pitched in to pay the deposit and first month's rent for a two-bedroom apartment. The Yagoub children, who range in age from 7 to 18, share one room.
Like many others, Yagoub has had trouble finding a job. That got even harder the week before Christmas. Khadiga became so sick he drove her to Tampa General Hospital, where she was admitted.
Yagoub has been spending his days driving back and forth from the apartment to the hospital. He said doctors have told him they do not yet want Khadiga, who has Medicaid, to leave.
But Yagoub said he can't keep up his back-and-forth routine; for everyone's sake, he needs to find work. So today he's going out with a social worker from Lutheran Services to look for a job. He has skills in landscaping, but he says he'll take anything.
He's not the only one in the family looking for work. Their 18-year-old daughter, Awatif, a junior at Gulf High School, is taking certified nursing assistant classes on the weekends and hopes to get her license soon. Her sister, 16-year-old Shadia, is also looking for a part-time job.
Yagoub said his wife's spirits are extremely low. He said she won't talk, won't even answer the doctors' questions. He is pinning everything, including her health, on his getting a job.
Daniel Agau, a friend and fellow Sudanese refugee, explained.
"If he gets a job, maybe Khadiga will get better," Agau said. "It might get her excited, and she will wake up from the hospital bed."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-647.