Category Archives: Refugee Employment

Working and learning: they go together

The following is a personal reflection by Rachael, a summer Resettlement Intern. World Relief’s Refugee Resettlement internship connects students and recent graduates with opportunities to serve newly arrived refugees in a variety of ways, while also encouraging meaningful cross-cultural relationships and training them in professional casework skills.

This is the beginning of my third week of interning at World Relief and every day is a new adventure. Today was no exception. My job for the day was to meet a husband and wife at their apartment in Tukwila and teach them to ride the bus. A bit of a daunting prospect, since I don’t generally take the bus myself. But one thing I’ve learned in my two weeks here is that even if I don’t know how to do something, at least I have the skills to figure out how—I know who to ask and what kinds of questions to ask.

After getting lost trying to find their apartment and almost going to the airport instead, I found their building, asked the maintenance man where to park, and walked up to their apartment. A minute later, a young woman opened the door with a small girl peeking around from behind her. I smiled and the little girl gave me an endearing grin. I figured out that the woman’s name was Hawo, the one I was coming to find, but that she spoke absolutely no English. She managed to tell me that her husband was coming too, but that we had to go find him. So off we went to another apartment where we waited for her husband to get back from meeting with a friend. The other apartment was very warmly furnished. I felt like I was somewhere in the Middle East or North Africa with the rich colors and patterns in the curtains, couches and rugs. Hawo’s husband, Isak soon arrived and we went back to their apartment to get the bus tickets, drop their beautiful three-year-old daughter off with friends, and then hurried down the street to catch our first bus.

The trip to the World Relief office in Kent was uneventful. We caught all of our buses smoothly, dodged the raindrops on our final walk from the last bus stop, and arrived early. After waiting for a little bit, they had a job skills assessment that I got to sit in on. They were asked questions about former education and jobs, what things they felt particularly good at, and what their dreams were for ten years from now. The assessment would be used to help find them a job. Hawo couldn’t think of anything she wanted to do someday, but Isak wanted to be a mechanical engineer. For the present though, he was ready and willing to take any job available. He knew that they would most likely be hard jobs requiring long hours, but he was eager, saying he would do anything.

On our walk back to the bus stop, Isak asked me how it would be possible to go to school, saying, “Working and learning—they go together. Both are important. You need both to get somewhere.” I told him that maybe after working for a little bit he would be able to pay for classes at a community college. He then began to tell me how, for human beings, everything is possible. If something feels too hard, he said, you must say to your soul, “I can do it,” because it is possible to do it. I was impressed and told him that this attitude would get him far. I told him that so many Americans like having it easy and will stop doing something if it gets too hard. This, however, is not the attitude of the refugee, and it was not the attitude of Isak. He knows that the next couple months will be incredibly hard as he and Hawo learn about American culture and struggle to accustom themselves to this new lifestyle, but he is up to the challenge and willing to persevere through the hard transition for the hope of a better future.

In the end, the journey back to the apartment took way longer than needed. I got buses mixed up and we went in the wrong direction, ended up at the wrong end of the line, and had to turn around and take the bus all the way to the other end. It was a long afternoon, but Isak and Hawo were incredibly patient and gracious as we all learned a new system together. That is another trait that I have noticed in many new refugees—they are thankful for whatever help you can give, even if you don’t have all the answers, because it is more than they could do on their own. And as you figure it out, they learn how to figure it out too.

As I left their apartment, I reflected that we had all been learners together that day. And ultimately, that is a good position to be in. We can both learn so much from each other; it’s not a one-sided relationship. I look forward to seeing them again soon and asking them how their bus rides are going and what they are learning in English class. I hope that next time I will be able to have a short conversation with Hawo in English. And I am looking forward to learning together with more refugees this summer—teaching them about my culture, and learning about pieces of theirs. It’s a rich experience.

If you are or know a student or recent graduate who is interested in the Refugee Resettlement internship, find out more information at Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Younis: Hospitality in Work and Life

Younis4You can’t help but smile when you see Younis. His face lights up when he’s talking, making you think that he’d like to be friends with just about everyone he meets.

Since he arrived to the United States in early 2013, he’s been making new friends, rapidly learning English, and growing in his role at the Courtyard Marriott located in Pioneer Square.

When Younis started working at the Marriott in April 2013, he brought both a good attitude and previous hotel work experience with him. He started as a dishwasher and then, six months later, was promoted to a new position in the maintenance department.

Younis speaks very highly of his employer, saying how much he enjoys working with his coworkers; the discounts, incentives, and days off; and the opportunity for employees to move around to other positions within the company.Younis5

On a recent visit to the Marriott, Younis walked me through his job, showing me the care that he puts into maintaining and cleaning each hotel room with great detail. He reminded me that hotel guests are paying a lot of money to stay at the hotel, so it’s his job to make sure the room is spotless. From changing the air filter, to vacuuming behind the bed, to wiping the dust off of the picture frames, Younis provides excellent service at the Marriott.

According to Tim, the maintenance manager at Pioneer Square Courtyard Marriott, Younis is very active and “loves to do it all.” Because Younis is still learning English, Tim has learned a few creative ways to teach Younis new tasks, such as physically showing him instead of only verbally telling him about how to do new things.

When he’s not working, Younis takes English classes at Highline Community College and volunteers at a local not-for-profit coffee cart.Younis Coffe shop 2

Younis is a vibrant member of his community, bringing joy to all those he works with, learns with, and volunteers with. I hope you have the opportunity to meet him someday!


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

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.