When Lemlem, a refugee from Ethiopia, arrived in the U.S. she was happy to start her new life in a free country, but did not realize how hard it could be for a newcomer with limited English. She hoped her job experience as a childcare teacher in Ethiopia would help, but learned that the position requires a STARS certificate. Lemlem joined ReWA’s Childcare Training class in the spring and quickly proved that she is a hard worker, never missing a class. She enjoyed the internship part of the class and her supervisor was very pleased with her work. Her supervisor observed, “The children and staff all love Lemlem. She came in and got straight down to business.” Even though it was not a class requirement, Lemlem volunteered eight hours every Friday on her day off. She completed 127 internship hours–the highest number in the class history.

After the class ended, Lemlem was back in our office applying for a job. Her hard work and determination has paid off, she is now working full-time at a childcare center in Seattle.

Learning English Opens Doors

Abdullahi Muhumed, his wife Sahra and their three children are originally from Somalia who came to the United States on October 13, 2015 through the UNCHR Resettlement Program, and settled in the King County area.

During the political unrest in Somalia, Abdullahi moved his family to South Africa where he managed and owned a small business to support his family. In October 2015, Abdullahi and his family had the opportunity to start a new life in America. Like others who were displaced and resettled in a foreign country, Abdullahi and his family faced religious, cultural, and language challenges.

ESL students, teachers, and volunteers at a recent graduation

Initially, Abdullahi was referred by DSHS to ReWA throughthe Limited English Pathway (LEP) Employment Program for Work First activities. Abdulahi and his wife enrolled in our ESL classes while both engaged in job search activities. Both had multiple barriers to employment such as childcare, housing, transportation and lack of English language skills. Our case managers worked hard to eliminate some of these barriers paving the way for the family to look for employment while learning English.

In a short time, our employment case manager helped Abdulahi secure full time employment as a production worker. His wife continued learning English. Abdulahi retained his employment for several months until he was laid off. At this time, his wife decided to find employment to provide for her family. With the help of employment case manager, Sahra was able to secure a temporary employment with Pacific Seafood in Federal Way. She started her shift at 5 am and traveled by bus for an hour every day to go to work.  But despite the challenges, Sahra’s desire to succeed strengthened her resolve. All the while, Abdullahi started to attend ESL classes at Highline Community College and also continued to re-engage in job search activities under our Basic Food Employment and Training program. Later, with his employment case manager’s help, Abdulahi obtained full time employment doing janitorial services at the airport.

Abdullahi and Sarah’s journey had been long and difficult; and through it all and with wrapped-round services they obtained at ReWA, they persevered and took steps towards self-sufficiency.

Empowerment and Independence

The day after her husband went to jail for assaulting her, “Hua,” a Chinese immigrant, reached out to ReWA. Hua’s husband had abused her in the past, but she had always been too afraid to call the police. Despite her fears, she had tried many techniques to prevent her husband from abusing her. She had already begun doing the things she needed to do to escape: she sought help from friends and family, studied English, educated herself, and found work to become more independent.

With the guidance of an advocate Hua was able to navigate the criminal legal system with confidence and strength. ReWA staff educated her on violence against women, the dynamics of power and control, and different forms of abuse. She was able to make decisions that were best for her family and create a safety plan appropriate for her situation.