Nightly News   |  January 12, 2010

Iraqi refugee forges path for others

Jan. 12: Making a Difference: Once a refugee forced to flee her home in Baghdad following her husband's murder, Alaa Naji now helps other new arrivals rebuild successful lives in America as she has done. NBC's Ron Mott reports.

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fact: doesn't get any better than this.

>>> we are back. it's time for our "making a difference" report which tonight is about refugees and the important work the international rescue committee is doing on their behalf around the world. more than that, it's about one woman, once a refugee herself, now dedicated to helping people rebuild their own lives, as she has done so successfully here in america. her story tonight from nbc's ron mott.

>> reporter: from a distance, alan naji walk as typical american path, picks up the kids from school and listens to their stories on the way home. shares dinner with the family. but for the 35-year-old native iraqi, the journey here two years ago was quite an ordeal.

>> one night i had to take the decision to escape with my children because they threatened to kill me because i was working with the u.s. army .

>> reporter: her husband never made it. he was killed in a baghdad bombing, and sparring naji to find freedom in the u.s.

>> the united states for me was a far away dream. i wanted to go there i didn't know how.

>> reporter: today she is using her know-how to help refugees chart a new course.

>> it's a hoard job. case management of newly-arrived refugees requires, people have to be saints. you have to have a lot of strength of character, and she has it in triplicate.

>> reporter: which explains why she is in perpetual motion . signing them up for english classes, computer training, even making house calls . many refugees start the american dream at the world's busiest airport in atlanta where the sea of unfamiliar faces can be overwhelming. until they spot alan here to welcome them to their new home. for some, she quickly becomes a constant, dependable presence in a rapidly-changing environment. their very first steps in america forward. yet with all she does to help people learn the ropes, she contends it's not nearly enough.

>> i want to do more. i want to help people because i know i suffered a lot.

>> reporter: a giving spirit that needs no translation. ron mott, nbc news, atlanta.