At the International Institute of St. Louis, a new federal program, Welcome Corps, invites American citizens to sponsor refugees as they build new lives in the metro.

Haytham Mastkalo and his family are enjoying a sunny afternoon in their Affton home, filled with yard work, coffee around the kitchen table, St. Louis Cardinals gear, and general conversation about the day. It’s a typical scene for the Mastkalos, one defined by a sense of normalcy that has been hard-won ever since their lives were upended by the Syrian Civil War. Forced out of Aleppo, the Mastkalos achieved refugee status and found a new life in the United States after a long, arduous process that took them from refugee camps in Turkey to a new home in Arizona, and ultimately to their adopted home of St. Louis, where they have lived since 2020. 

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