June 20 is World Refugee Day – a day to raise awareness about the global refugee crisis and to celebrate the courage and resilience of refugees worldwide and the contributions of refugees in our community. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that in 2015, 65.3 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes, the highest ever number on record. While the scale of the crisis can feel overwhelming, refugee resettlement agencies like the International Institute ensure that refugees in our community have a strong start in their new lives. Here is one such story:
Abheek and Briti arrived in Minnesota with their two children in September 2015, more than four years after fleeing their home in Sri Lanka. Abheek and Briti were adamant that they needed to start working as soon as possible to provide for their young children. Their determination made them perfect candidates for our Accelerated Employment program, which provides job training and additional case management to newly-arrived refugees.
Unable to afford childcare while they attended the program’s weekly job club, Abheek and Briti brought their children along. In rain and snow throughout the family’s first Minnesota winter, all four eager job seekers rode the bus toting binders, pens, strollers and diaper bags. Their commitment was inspiring. Their attendance in job club remains among highest in the program’s history.
Abheek found a job first at a local production plant while Briti stayed home with the children and continued her own job search. Shortly after starting his job, Abheek came to the Institute with an unexpected problem: his overnight shift combined with his heavy workload was aggravating a piece of shrapnel left in his skull from an explosion he survived back in Sri Lanka. Abheek left his production plant job and, undeterred from becoming self-sufficient, returned to the job club.
A few months later, Abheek found a safe job that would not induce headaches and Briti found work in a supermarket. The couple works on alternating days to minimize childcare costs. With their current jobs, they are able to pay for all of their monthly expenses without accessing any other forms of assistance.
Abheek and Briti’s ability to resettle in a new country and become self-sufficient in less than six months is a testament to their perseverance, talent, and determination. While they are extraordinary, they are not unique. The New Americans we serve are deeply motivated to become fully-contributing members of our community, and we are honored to help them achieve this goal.