Category Archives: Seattle

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As a nation and as a community this holiday season, let us say to the refugee & the stranger among us: Welcome. There is Room. We wish you peace. 

Welcome a refugee family by making a gift to World Relief Seattle today.


When Hussein, Sabeeha, and their six children arrived to SeaTac Airport in August, it was the culmination of a years-long journey that spanned from Syria to Norway and many places in-between. IMG_5000.jpg

The journey began in their home in Baghdad, Iraq. Hussein and his seven brothers ran their own construction factories. “My family was so rich in Baghdad,” remembers Hussein.

When the US began its offensive in Iraq in 2003, the brothers were contracted to do construction projects for the American military, putting them in danger of retaliation from groups in opposition to the US. Two of Hussein’s brothers were killed by militants.

Fleeing the dangers that had claimed his brothers’ lives, Hussein brought his family from Baghdad to Syria, where they stayed for three years. It’s a period that Hussein doesn’t talk about much. “When we were in Syria we felt hungry many, many days,” he says.

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Seeking greater opportunity for his family, Hussein made the heart-wrenching decision to leave his wife and young children behind. He hoped to reach Europe and, upon establishing a safe life, to eventually bring them to join him.

Hussein found himself on an overcrowded boat from Turkey to Greece for three days. He remembers well the fear he felt in that moment: “You choose between two points. There is death here and death there. I just preferred the sea more than to return to Iraq and the horror”.

Surviving the harrowing boat ride, Hussein made it to Norway where he spent more than three years trying to gain legal residency. His efforts came to naught, though, when the Norwegian government deported him back to Iraq in November 2011.

Hussein reunited with his family in Baghdad, but his presence made it unsafe for them to stay. Again they fled, this time north to Turkey. Stuck between a homeland that couldn’t protect them and a neighboring country hesitant to welcome them, Hussein and Sabeeha felt desperate.

“Every night at that time, I just cried inside my bedroom,” he remembers. After several days waiting and a night spent on the streets at the border, the family was granted entry to Turkey.IMG_4963.jpg

Here they stayed for four more years, waiting on the extensive security screening process required for resettlement into the US. Sabeeha gave birth to their sixth child–a spunky little girl.  The older children learned Turkish and studied in school.

Finally, they received their visas to come to America.

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“I’ve spent a big period of my life looking for shelter,” says Hussein. “This is the end of my mission. I started my life from the beginning again.”

The family’s new life in America has been marked by struggle and generosity. The shortage of housing in King County meant that the family spent weeks waiting to secure an apartment they could afford. While they waited, they were warmly welcomed into the home of an American family who learned about World Relief through their church.

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Today, Hussein and his family are beginning to gain their footing in their new homeland. The teenagers are attending school and learning English. The oldest son, Omar, has a job doing auto detailing at the airport. The entire family is enjoying the security and warmth of a new apartment.

World Relief comes alongside newcomers like Hussein & Sabeeha, helping them learn English, get jobs, and become thriving members of their new community. 

Will you extend a warm welcome to a Seattle-area refugee family this holiday season? Give online today.

Like Earth and Sky

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“Like Earth and Sky”
These were the words that came to mind when Abbas tried to compare his first job in the US to his previous job as an interpreter for the US Army in Afghanistan. Abbas arrived in the US just months ago as part of the United States SIV program, granting refugee rights to individuals who’ve worked with the U.S. government and military in Afghanistan.

“My previous job put me at risk… [now] I feel safe.” While the contrast between his new and former employment are just one example of the many changes facing people experiencing resettlement in a new country, Abbas has found stability and community in his new job.

Abbas works as a Driver Helper for Quality Custom Distribution Services, delivering supplies to Starbucks locations throughout King County. He prides himself on having memorized the specifications of each box in the truck, enabling him to load and unload as efficiently as possible. It’s no wonder why drivers at QCD request Abbas to be their ride along helper.Abbas 1

Abbas is quickly adopting one of Seattle’s greatest icons, Starbucks Coffee, as his own. His hard work has earned him the respect of baristas throughout the city, and is occasionally rewarded with a drink of his choice. “Venti vanilla bean Frappuccino!”

Abbas has enjoyed the opportunity his job has provided to become familiarized with the city, improve his English through interaction with coworkers, and most importantly, get settled in his new life in America. “I don’t want to go anywhere else,” he says.

Abbas’ new job did not come without challenges. The bus schedule did not align with his graveyard shift, requiring that he wait more than 2 hours after finishing work for the bus to arrive. Abbas stuck it out, and fortunately World Relief was able to donate a car to Abbas and his family to ease his commute. His exceptional work ethic and success as a team player has paved the way for further job placements for refugees at QCD after him.Abbas 5

For Abbas, the difference between his former life and newfound community in the US can best be described as, “like Earth and sky.” While there are certain challenges awaiting all newcomers to the US, Abbas advises, “Don’t quit. Keep going. Be patient with the job.” Stability and hope are sure to come.


If you are interested in learning more about how you, your family or your church can come alongside refugees, we have a seminar series happening in Seattle at University Presbyterian Church June 3rd, 10th, and 17th.

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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!

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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

A 35-year tradition

Seventy years ago, as WWII was coming to a close and war-torn Europe was facing a monumental humanitarian crisis, a vision was born in the Church. Faithful believers around the country began to fast, pray, give, and volunteer to assist those impacted by the war, in an effort that would later become known as World Relief.

In 1979, the Church responded again with unprecedented effort and vision, and World Relief opened its doors in cities across the US to welcome refugees from Laos, Burma, Vietnam, and Cambodia. World Relief would go on to become one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the world.

World Relief Seattle's first home in the International District

World Relief Seattle’s first home in Seattle’s International District

This year, World Relief Seattle marks 35 years of operation, and we hope you will take a moment to reflect with us on the faithfulness of volunteers and the overwhelming provision of God that has sustained this ministry of welcome.

In the early days of World Relief Seattle, volunteers were vital to the refugee resettlement process. Members of local churches opened their homes and lives, sacrificing their time to pick people up at the airport, to prepare meals, to help children enroll in school, to teach English classes, and to invest in the lives of newcomers. They saw the unique needs of refugees and immigrants, and immediately and creatively mobilized to address those needs. Their vision helped shape the direction and build the capacity of World Relief Seattle, eventually contributing to Seattle being one of the top refugee resettlement cities in the country.

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Refugees and volunteers continue to be connected in mutually-transformative, life-changing relationships.

Today, although the geographic areas of turmoil have changed, the response of the Church in Seattle is constant. As World Relief Seattle celebrates 35 years of operation, we also celebrate a 35-year legacy of faithful service. Individuals of all backgrounds, ages, and levels of experience pour themselves into the refugee and immigrant community, and remain essential to the life-transformation that is our goal.

Are you a volunteer? Then your story is our story! Whether you’ve served for 1 day or for 35 years, we would love to hear from you. Share your stories and memories with us by emailing volunteerseattle@wr.org with the subject “looking back”.

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.

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

Hi,

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 NCEES.org, 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 “http://www.autodesk.com/

2- EIT license, FE exam, with the “http://ncees.org/

3- Auto CAD Drafting certificate from any community college.

Thanks with best wishes.

Qasim

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.

Local Churches Participate in Refugee Project

Last Saturday, November 2nd, twelve people from Quest Church and about ten others from LifeWay Church participated in the Refugee Project – a three hour refugee simulation program of World Relief Seattle. The group met at the Eastern Hotel in Seattle’s historic International District. DSC_0048

World Relief is one of several organizations that support refugees as they integrate into their new communities. Part of this integration process includes educating the local community about refugees and their stories. Sandra Van Der Pol, Refugee Project Coordinator, has been leading the simulation for individuals, organizations and institutions for many years.

Quest Church has recently renewed a relationship with World Relief Seattle to further engage refugees and immigrants in the metro-Seattle area.  LifeWay has also been looking into ways to get more connected. 

The group spent the first part of the morning learning more about refugees – why they are here, where they are coming from, and how difficult the transition can be for many families. For example, even filling out a form in another language can often be a significant challenge for many refugees and immigrants. 

Individuals were then separated into groups, where they were assigned specific roles within a fictional refugee family, including dressing up in traditional clothing from each specific region.  One group took on the role of Chin refugees from Burma, who had escaped violence and persecution from the military junta. Each family proceeded to three different stations – a State Department interview, UNHCR Medical Screening, and a refugee camp food distribution center. DSC_0062

“Just putting oneself in the place of another brings that needed ingredient of empathy,” noted Faith White, one of the group participants.

Near the end of the program, participants had the opportunity to hear from a former refugee from Somalia, who fled Al-Shabab to seek asylum in the United States. The speaker shared her incredible journey to get here, as well as the adjustment period after she arrived.

Several members of the group also expressed the value of learning and growing together as members of the same congregation.

“I was so blessed to be in the presence of others desiring to learn and relate and process through such a huge issue in our world,” said Katrina Anderson, one of the leaders for the Refugee Engagement Ministry at Quest.

Interested volunteers should contact volunteerseattle@wr.org for more information on how to get more involved. 

Read These Links: Refugees Add Life to Local Economies

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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.