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Iraqi Child Finds U.S. Family


As the U.S. marks the anniversary of the war in Iraq, a little girl from Baghdad is finding comfort and friendship in a small Tennessee town. She came here for life-changing surgery, but will return home with the love of a lifelong friend and the support of a community that is practicing its own form of diplomacy.  Kim Riemland has more.


(Locator: Maryville, Tennessee)

Eight-year-old Samantha Ousley is an only child.  But a friend from afar has become just like a member of her family.

Ghofran Alyass/Iraqi Guest: “My sister.

Ten-year-old Ghofran Alyass came from Baghdad, Iraq to East Tennessee for surgery to treat spina bifida. Language and cultural differences are no barrier to her host family.

Samantha Ousley/8-Years-Old: “She’s a really good playmate.  And we get along good.”

Ghofran Alyass/Iraqi Guest: “A-B-C-D-E-F-G.”

Ghofran learned the English alphabet from Samantha. And Samantha learned from Ghofran how to count in Arabic.

Ted Ousley/Hosting Iraqi Family: “107.7 WIVK...”

Radio personality Ted Ousley is Samantha’s father, and heard about Ghofran while embedded with American troops in Iraq.  He says it’s a small way to help in a very difficult war.

Ted Ousley/Hosting Iraqi Family: “You don’t do it at the point of a gun.  And I think we’re realizing that, more and more.”

Ousley’s church, First United Methodist Church of Maryville, raised 10,000 dollars for travel and expenses.

The Rev. Brenda Carroll/First United Methodist Church of Maryville: “Once you ever see Ghofran the first time, there's never any question that you're going to do everything you can to help that child.”

Children at the church made a special blanket to give Ghofran warmth and reassurance.

Elizabeth Morton/First United Methodist Church Member: “There's a lot going on, bombs are going off and stuff. And just to help her, to comfort her with blankets and stuff.”

Doctors say Ghofran will never walk.  But surgeons and her extended family are hoping the surgery will extend her life.

Samantha Ousley/8-Years-Old: “I really want her to get better.”

Ghofran Alyass/Iraqi Guest (speaking through interpreter): “I feel all the people love me.  For this family, thanks.”


Ghofran’s surgery is scheduled for April 11th.  There’s no cost to her family.  Surgeons are donating their services for what is expected to be a 17-hour operation.  And a Tennessee foundation is covering the hospital costs. 

For more information, contact the church at 865-982-1273 or log onto

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