Category Archives: Refugee Employment

Success Spotlight: Qasim Saud

Each year, World Relief Seattle assists hundreds of refugees as they search for their first job in the United States. Refugees and immigrants bring a diverse set of skills and experiences to our communities, and in most cases, they quickly become contributing members of society.

But it doesn’t come without hard work.

Qasim Saud is no stranger to the uphill struggle faced by many immigrants in search of the ever-elusive American Dream. He and his family first arrived to Seattle in 2012 as refugees fleeing violence in Iraq. As a Mechanical Engineer who worked on reconstruction projects throughout the country, he was a skilled professional eager to contribute to the local workforce. Unfortunately, his experience and training did not easily translate to the US equivalent of his prior career. Nuanced systems and complex certifications can unintentionally work against many highly skilled new-Americans. The need for quick income to pay for immediate expenses can also result in the necessity to take any job available, regardless of career planning.

After years of hard work and sacrifice, Qasim is now working for the Rushing Company – a Seattle-based engineering consulting firm. He is currently working as a Revit Modeler, but eventually he hopes to become a Mechanical Design Engineer.

Qasim Photo

We asked Qasim to share his career-path story with the hope that others might be inspired by his journey.


My name is Qasim Saud. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Iraq. I came to the USA for the first time in my life as a refugee in June 2012 . I prepared my resume according to the online resume template for the mechanical engineers who work here in the USA. I placed my self at a lower level from them. I did online job applications as average about 50 application per day. I didn’t care where these jobs were – my job search was in the whole USA. I used many websites like CareerBuilder, Monster and Indeed. I did many unsuccessful interviews by phone, face to face and Skype interviews. I learned many new things from each one. After three months with hard work, I got an opportunity in Lexington, KY as an Auto CAD and Revit Drafter. It was a contract job for 4 months only. When I completed my job there, I came back to job search here in WA again. I did two face to face interviews but I had reference, the KY job, at this time, and I got a nice job as a Revit modeler in Seattle with the Rushing Company. I worked with them for about one year and they told me if i got the EIT license, Engineer-In-Training license, I will work with them as a Mechanical Designer Engineer. In order to get the EIT license, I have to pass the FE exam, Fundamental Engineering exam. I did an application with the, which is responsible for this exam. I did this exam two times in Sacramento, CA but I did not pass, and I will do it for the third time in April.

I think everybody, who has similar backgrounds and circumstances, and who would like to get a job in my industry easily has to get at least one of the following:

1- Auto CAD or Revit license from “

2- EIT license, FE exam, with the “

3- Auto CAD Drafting certificate from any community college.

Thanks with best wishes.


Unfortunately, Qasim is not the only skilled professional to face the Sisyphean task of starting a career all over again. What is even more frustrating is the fact that many local companies are in desperate need of skilled workers, especially in the tech and engineering sectors. In order to counter this waste of human potential, organizations around the country are working to connect skilled immigrants with businesses in want of specialized workers by eliminating barriers for talented immigrants like Qasim. If you, or your company (or your friend’s company), might be interested in hiring refugees, please get in touch with one of our Employment Specialists.

Thank you, Qasim. For sharing your story, and for reminding us to always follow our dreams.

Wasi – A Star of Star Protection

Wasi - Front Desk“Co-workers and clients rave about his work ethic.”

Wasi’s supervisor, Matt Bradley, has nothing but accolades and praise for Wasi. Others must feel the same way, too – one month after he started working for Star Protection Agency, he was awarded Officer of the Month for his attention to detail, composure under pressure, and constant striving to ensure safety and security.

Working in a security position with American co-workers was not a new role for Wasi. In Afghanistan, he worked at the United States Embassy. When he came to the United States, he brought with him excellent English communication skills and a plethora of security experience.

After arriving to the United States, Wasi realized how difficult it is to get a job here. Though he started in a more entry-level position than he had been working at in Afghanistan, he was thankful to get a job. He recognized that everyone has to make a first step in the American work force, and that opportunities would follow as he gained experience in the United States.

After receiving the Officer of the Month award for his outstanding work performance, Wasi felt like his coworkers recognized his motivation and dedication to working hard. He felt affirmed and more a part of the Star Protection Agency family.

Star ProtectionOn the brink of his one year anniversary at Star Protection Agency, Wasi continues to enjoy working with friendly and cooperative colleagues. He continually impresses his supervisor, clients, and colleagues, such as when he changed all of the clocks during daylight savings time even though it wasn’t on his list of duties. And, according to his supervisor, the “positive attitude that he exudes is very contagious.”

Just like his supervisor, the World Relief Seattle staff has been truly honored to get to know Wasi and his family as they become a part of our community. We look forward to watching him continue to positively influence his workplace and community, and for him and his family to flourish in America.

Read These Links: Refugees Add Life to Local Economies


Happy Haloween, everyone!

Good morning friends. We have some interesting links to share with you today:

That’s all the news for today. Keep checking back for more updates and stories from our blog, Strangers in Seattle. May your days be filled with joy and laughter.

Employer Spotlight: ‘Handcrafting Hope’ Creates Jobs, Opportunity

As an Employment Specialist for World Relief Seattle, I often have the privilege of working with many excellent entrepreneurs and business people throughout the greater Seattle area. Handcrafting Hope – a local jewelry company with a social mission – has been a partner with World Relief Seattle for several years, having hired 14 of our clients since 2010.

The first time I visited the company, I remember thinking, this is incredible. The American, low-wage workplace can be a shock for some refugees, so to discover a cozy workshop with quiet music playing in the background was a refreshing surprise. Handcrafting Hope

Bennett Bottorff, founder of the company, explained to me how he got into the women’s accessory line of business. As an avid fisherman, he fashioned his own flies out of wire, feathers and other materials. Through some experimenting, he eventually used these skills to create beautiful jewelry. After learning about the plight of refugee women, he envisioned a way to match his skills and abilities with a great need for refugee families – jobs. While he now has less time to reel in the sock-eyes, he’s still in the business of teaching others how to fish. Here’s an excerpt straight from the Handcrafting Hope website:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This quote by Confucius is a cornerstone of Handcrafting Hope and is tattooed on the wrist of founder Bennett Bottorff. After hearing about the struggles of refugee women in the United States, he knew that empowering these women through employment and skills training would change their lives in a sustainable way. With little design experience and no small business history, Bennett decided to create a business that would do more than make a great product— it would teach refugees “how to fish.”

The company provides beautiful jewelry for a growing demand in the US and in Europe. More importantly, Handcrafting Hope is providing opportunities for refugee women to create new stories in a new place. If you’re searching for some Christmas gifts this year, look no further. Handcrafting Hope has got your covered. Spread the word. This is a company worth sharing about.

For most newly arrived refugees, employment is truly a life-changing experience. If your company (or someone you know) would like to find out how to partner with World Relief Employment Services, please visit our website. We also have a convenient web-portal, where you can post your open positions

Twelve Months @ World Relief Seattle

World Relief Seattle envisions refugees and immigrants transformed economically, socially, and spiritually. The impact of our work is the result of the hard work of World Relief staff and volunteers, the generosity and prayers of local supporters, and the resilience and strength of the refugees and immigrants with whom we work.

These figures represent 12 months of life-changing activity at World Relief Seattle.  While there are a lot of numbers here, the most important number is 1. Each life transformed and each individual empowered by the community is cause for celebration.

12 Months Infographic-Final1

Khalida: one cup of coffee at a time.

Khalida is a Meskhetian Turk who knew what type of work she wanted. It was an aspiration that had little hope of coming true.

During World War II, in 1944, thousands of Meskhetians were deported to Uzbekistan. They were not accepted as citizens.  Ethnic hostility broke out in 1989 and they were expelled and officially became refugees under the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). No country in that region wanted them as citizens. Many, like Khalida’s family, fled to Russia where they were allowed to live but with no legal rights of any kind – no citizenship, voting rights, passport, right to marry, nothing. It was a struggle to survive.

All this changed when the United States agreed to accept the Meskhetian Turks as refugees. In America they could eventually be naturalized and become citizens. Khalida arrived in Seattle in 2005 full of ambition.

“I want to work in a store,” she told Jan Greene, World Relief’s job developer.  Jan knew the first hurdle to overcome was to learn English.  Khlalida faithfully attended the World Relief English class.

A job vacancy came along. Jan took her for the interview but she didn’t get the job, “We like you very much Khalida, but you need more English.”

A few weeks passed and another interview came along. Again Khalida was told, “Sorry, but you need better English.” Khalida remained determined and continued studying the complexities of English.

Days passed and Safeway had a vacancy in their in-store Starbucks. Khalida tried again. “How would you like to be a barista at our Starbucks cafe?” asked the manager.

Jan held her breath. How would Khalida handle all those new words like “venti”, “latte”, “single shot”, “double non-fat without cream”?

“Yes,” replied Khalida, replying crisply without hesitation. Khalida was hired and completed the Starbucks week-long training, all in English, of course.

“Khalida is a woman with polish and determination” notes Jan Greene.

Victor: 22 years later

Written by: Anonymous

The following is a story of a family’s economical survival in the US, their integration into an American society and becoming self-sufficient. This is also a story of great courage at the time when the family was facing a great uncertainty.

Victor, his wife, and their 4 young children arrived to Seattle as refugees. This was a while ago when World Relief used to work with sponsors—people willing to host the refugee families and assist with their initial resettlement needs. Directly from the airport, Victor’s family was taken into the home of one such sponsor, who happened to be a prominent businessman in his community. This man held strong beliefs that every man should be able to support his family with the work of his own two hands.

Neither Victor nor his wife spoke a word of English. With the help of the interpreter, their sponsor found out that Victor had a long history of working as a car mechanic. The very next day, this sponsor got in touch with his friend—an owner of an auto body shop—and asked him for a favor: to meet with a newly-arrived Ukrainian refugee and test his mechanical skill. Oh, did Victor know how to repair cars! Even the foreign, expensive cars! When he was shown to a Mercedes that was making noises, he was quickly able to point out the faulty part and replace it on the spot.

Observing his expertise and skills, the shop owner offered Victor a job with a decent salary. Initially, Victor was not happy about such rapid developments in his life in the US. He wanted to take ESL classes first and get affordable housing. But, upon his sponsor’s insistence that this employment opportunity is a chance he couldn’t afford to miss, Victor agreed to take the job. Incredibly, he started working just 4 days after his arrival in the US.

Six months later, Victor became one of the most valuable workers in auto body shop. He was learning English on the job and had received a pay raise. He was well ahead of many of his friends who were still taking ESL classes. Four years later, his family was able to make a down payment on their own house.  Now, 22 years later, he still works in the same shop while earning the highest pay possible in the auto repair industry.

Victor never gets tired of telling the story of his success in America and how immensely grateful he became toward his sponsor, when he finally realized what a huge difference that man has made in his life. What a blessing it is to have passionate volunteers at World Relief, dedicated to refugees’ success and their economic self-sufficiency.

Ashmi and Ayan: March Fourteenth, Two Thousand Twelve

Written by: Stephen Johnson, World Relief Employment Specialist

“What is today?” Ashmi asked. She had a certain smile on her face that, even after 6 months of knowing her, I had not seen before.

“Today is March 14th,” I replied.

“I will always remember this day,” she assured me.

Today, Ashmi and her husband, Bhutanese refugees from Nepal, were hired at separate hotels an hour and a half bus ride from their humble apartment just south of Seattle. (For resettled refugees, and countless other new-Americans, distance is often measured in the time it takes on public transportation.)

As an Employment Specialist for World Relief, one of the highlights of my job is the day when refugees become employees. Less than one percent of refugees worldwide make it to a third country. Most end up staying in the country to which they initially flee, which is usually not much better than what they left behind. For individuals and families who have survived systems of oppression and confronted tremendous barriers, getting your first job in a relatively safe place can seem like winning the lottery. I like to think that I play a part in the puzzle, but I am also certain that in this economic environment, employment is truly an act of God. Alhamdulillah, praise be to God, as our Arabic-speaking friends often remind us.

Only two hours earlier, we were preparing at the office before we left, going over a list of practice interview questions that this particular employer has asked in the past.

“What does task mean?” “What is attention to detail?” “Should I sit or should I stand during the interview?” I did my best to answer as many questions as possible. If this manager likes these two, maybe she will want to hire more refugees in the future.

As we walked to the car, Ashmi could not hide her ample apprehension. “My heart is beating so quickly—ninety beats per minute,” she laughed. Today, I would take Ashmi and Ayan, a Somali woman who recently arrived from Ethiopia, to interviews for housekeeping positions. Two stoic women of the same age and demeanor, yet their stories remained worlds apart. Despite the disparities, they seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

“Do not worry, we can help each other,” Ayan assured Ashmi.

There were two interviews. The first was a pre-screen with someone from Human Resources, at which they both did very well. Just smile and nod, I’d joked with them both before. The second interview was slightly more difficult. The manager spoke quickly, with a sense of urgency that every housekeeping supervisor seems to develop over time. I did my best to “translate” complex questions into simple sentences that they could understand.

Alhamdulillah. They were both hired on the spot.

“March 14th, 2012,” Ashmi pronounced each syllable. “Today, we are so happy.”

From my rearview mirror, I could see both of them surreptitiously wiping small tears from their eyes on our short drive home. Today, I was a reminded that I will never fully know where my client’s have been or what they have gone through to get here. I will also never fully know the impact of our work – the privilege of being a part of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Today was truly a significant day for me as well.

“Thank you to America, and thank you to the American people.”

“Thank you to God also,” Ashmi added.