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Refugees: Ready & Willing to Work Hard

Nedal Klaib was a veterinarian in his home country of Syria. He fled to Jordan with his wife and five children due to the civil war in 2012. In Jordan, he was able to continue his work as a veterinarian, but when he came to America, his education and credentials didn’t transfer.

His first job in America was building and moving furniture.

“I was happy, not happy.” Happy to be working. He had a family, bills, rent, etc., but he was determined to return to his career as a veterinarian.

“I am hard working. When we came to America, everything changed for me. Everything – the language, the system, the culture – everything changed for me.”

After a little over a year at the furniture store, Nedal found a job at a veterinary clinic, first as an assistant, then as his English improved, he became a vet tech. Now, five years later, he is just a few classes away from becoming a veterinarian again.

Professionals cannot always do the work they were trained for

“While many refugees have previous professional experience in their country of origin, they often lack the degrees, certifications, and knowledge specific to the U.S. job environment needed to attain professional employment after resettlement. Even highly-skilled refugees are often required to take low-skilled jobs with little opportunity for advancement or skill development. This in turn limits refugees’ potential to achieve economic self-sufficiency and to benefit their communities by making full use of the skills and experience they bring to their new home” (Office of Refugee Resettlement).

When we came to America everything changed for me. Everything – the language, the system, the culture – everything changed for me.

NEdal Klaib

The road has not been easy for Nedal. Many people ask him why he doesn’t take English classes. That option is offered to all new arrivals early on. “World Relief told me I can go to school to learn English, but I answer, ‘I cannot go to school because apartment is expensive. I need to work because my kids are small and not help me.’” Nedal has been working continually since two months after his arrival, and for the last few years, he has been working and going to school at the same time.

He is grateful to the manager of the Pet Emergency Clinic for taking a chance on him. “The manager, she helped me a lot because she said, ‘Don’t worry. His language is no problem. Language in the future is maybe learned more with listening to people. You can learn every day some English with people here at the job.’

Language, technology and the American pet craze

“I know everything in Arabic,” Nedal said. “Just in English, I don’t know everything. The manager said, ‘No problem. When you have questions, you can ask anyone, what is the name of this one? And everybody help you. Don’t worry.’”

Besides the language, Nedal has had to make two more big adjustments: First, caring for small animals. He worked with large animals (cattle, sheep) in Syria. He admits to being somewhat surprised by the level of affection people in America have for their pets. Secondly, technology. Computers are used for everything here – testing, examinations, recordkeeping, etc. “There was not as much technology in Syria.”

Cows in pasture
Photo by Muhamad Lutfi

A common misconception is that refugees and other immigrants are a drain on the economy.

“In 2019 alone, the nearly 2.4 million refugees examined in the analysis generated a remarkable $93.6 billion in household income, contributing $25 billion in taxes and leaving them with $68.6 billion in disposable income to stimulate the U.S. economy” (American Immigration Council).

“Over the years, more and more economists have come to the conclusion that immigrant workers complement the native-born majority of the labor force by bringing different sets of skills and different demographic profiles with them, both of which enhance and expand the economy as a whole” (American Immigration Council).

“I’m very happy because this is my job. Because I study a lot in my country after high school. I studied seven years to become a veterinarian in Syria.” And then he worked for 12 years before having to flee due to the escalating civil war.

Getting back to work is key to building a new life.

Placing people in jobs is a significant part of helping them to rebuild their lives.

In August, 37 World Relief clients from 12 different countries were placed with 18 companies in the Spokane area.

Jared Booker, director of Economic Empowerment at World Relief Spokane, had the opportunity to accompany some clients to their new jobs. “I remember standing in the locker room before they went out on the floor and they were putting their hairnets on, and I was like, ‘This is the first day of rebuilding what was stolen from you.’ And the employer was there, and that was really impactful for them. What we get to do day in and day out is super impactful, and sometimes, we don’t realize how impactful it is, but to the employers, they hear that, and they’re like, we get to be a part of that, as well. So, if there’s a message for employers, it’s this: to be able to walk alongside people who have had so much taken from them and to get to be a part of giving them a paycheck so they can rebuild their lives, it’s so… it’s rich.”

Are you an employer interesting in hiring hard-working refugees? Contact us to start a conversation.

57 new arrivals are coming between now and the end of the month. Help us provide the wraparound services (including job search and placement) they need to get resettled in their new home.

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