Country of Origin: Iraq
An avid photographer and filmmaker, Maher received his first camera when he was 16. The camera was a gift from his mother, who sold all of her jewelry to buy it.
Maher began wandering the streets of Baghdad, documenting scenes of pain, neglect, and loss. During one of his photography shoots, Maher’s camera was confiscated by an Iraqi soldier. He was reprimanded for attempting to capture the city, and the camera was later returned to him, smashed to pieces.
Two years later, at 18, Maher became a translator for the U.S. Army. Although he couldn’t speak English at the time, he was saved by Google Translate. A year after working with the U.S. Army, Maher’s family received an envelope containing two items: a bullet and a note.
The note warned that the family would be killed if they continued to work with the Americans. Three days after Maher received that note, his father was shot.
Luckily, he survived, and the family relocated to Jordan.
In Jordan, Maher’s family applied for asylum and were finally resettled to New Haven, Connecticut, on April 10th, 2014.
In the U.S., Maher began working at Domino’s Pizza and Edible Arrangements. One day, he was contacted by a representative for the Yale School of Drama. Eventually, a play was created based on Maher’s journey. Maher proceeded to tell his story to thousands of people, from Yale’s stage in New Haven to Lincoln Center in New York.
After his performance in New York, Maher was contacted by Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google. Sundar was touched by Maher’s resilience and his use of Google Translate.
Over the past three years, Maher has learned many lessons, the most important coming from his family.
When Maher asked his father for advice regarding their adjustment to life in America, his father answered with a demonstration.
He retrieved a glass and filled it with water.
“The water in the glass is the community in America,” he told Maher.
He proceeded to pour oil into the glass, adding, “You see, the oil separates to the top. We are the oil; we are separate.”
He then grabbed a spoon and mixed everything, allowing small bubbles of oil to form in the glass.
He looked at Maher and said, “That’s how we want to be in America. One community, loving each other. And doing good things together.”
Maher continues to craft photographs and produce films. On July 10th, 2017, he was hired by Google.