Refugees in Indiana

Like many people, the images I’ve seen in the news lately of refugees fleeing violence and war have affected me deeply.  Parents are going through extraordinary lengths to protect their children, risking their lives seeking safety and stability.

America is a country founded and built by refugees and immigrants with these same basic goals.  That’s why this spring I began documenting refugees in Indiana.  My goal with this series is to show people living in local communities who embody what it means to be Hoosiers and Americans.

Rana and Reem Okar, 35, are twin sisters from Syria.  They lived in Damascus for 30 years, and although smoke rising from bomb blasts in the distance had become regular occurrences and work commutes were lengthened by checkpoints, they felt safe in their city. They lived in a tight-knit community where eveyone knew each other and they would spend hours after work most days talking with friends and family at restaurants and hookah bars.

They came to the United States in late 2012 to visit family and by late 2013 decided to seek refugee status, as they were concerned about the escalating discord in their home country.

After few years of working various part time jobs in retail, both Rana and Reem were able to find regular full time employment that they enjoy.  Reem works with the program and camping department  of the Boy Scouts and Rana works as a team leader for Engaging Solutions, providing call center operations for health care providers.

Currently they live in the Southport area of Indianapolis with two of their sisters, but are looking to purchase a home on the north side.  On weekends and during vacations they like to travel around the state seeing sights like Brown County State Park and Cataract Falls or shopping in towns like Nashville and Zionsville.

  • Rana (left) and Reem Okar are twin sisters from Syria who have been living in Indiana for the past 5 years as refugees.