FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Tucked in the back of a classroom you will find a young Syrian boy sitting apart from the rest of the pack. Like the other first graders Abdullah Ali is quickly mastering his addition and subtraction, but learning to let go of the past is the true challenge.
Rawan Salaymeh is a bilingual instructional assistant and out of all the refugee children she's tried to help-- Abdullah's scars have been the toughest to heal.
"His dad had told me and I cried, it honestly brought tears to my eyes."
Two years ago in Syria, Abdullah and his mother were celebrating a wedding in Aleppo when out of the sky bombs began to drop. His mother melted on top of him in a protective hug.
"My mother held Abdullah in a way to protect him from the fire, and the fire ate and spread on both of their backs," said Bakri, Abdullah's brother.
Abdullah survived, badly mangled-- he couldn't walk, and his hands were badly burned and at 7-years-old, his voice is still but a whisper.
"It was a horrifying moment that I will never forget in my life, looking at all the women and kids who were killed by these barrel bombs," said Ali, Abdullah's father.
But it was also Abdullah's tragic situation that gave his family the rare chance to come to the U.S. It took 18 months to secure a visa and leave a country marred by killing to one that promised endless opportunity.
"The American people are a civilized people, a merciful people. We lived in Syria through a lot of hatred and a lot of corruption," said Ali.
The skies in Fresno are clear of smoke, but the perception of a peaceful life here isn't what it seems.
"When Abdullah goes out, kids his age try to tease him by pulling the hat away to look what's underneath it and he is very much affected by that psychologically," said Bakri.
It's been four months since the family settled in town, and Ali and his five children live in a cramped two bedroom apartment. Abdullah has yet to find medical help and none of the kids have been in school for five years.
"Coming here his dad of course thought he'd get a lot of help, but he hasn't received any," said Salaymeh.
Salaymeh has watched as Abdullah began saying his first words-- occasionally flashing a smile in class.
"I am beyond grateful every day when I come to work that they opened up this position to help them because without someone coming to help them they aren't coming to get anywhere."
While other kids are busy mastering reading and writing Abdullah is still trying to shed a different set of skills-- like learning to flee from Syria's civil war.
If you would like to donate to Abdullah the family has set up a GoFundMe account for medical expenses.