After Fleeing Syria …
Amina resettled in Philadelphia with her husband in 2017 after fleeing from Syria. In Syria, Amina owned her own upholstery business, but once she arrived in the United States, she had to take a job as a custodian.
Skilled and capable immigrants and refugees are often forced to take low-skilled and low-wage jobs because of barriers like licensing, education recognition, and language. But these stumbling blocks don’t have to be completely debilitating.
For Amina, working as a custodian was very difficult, but she was motivated to change her family’s circumstances.
Doing What She Knew Best In Syria
In Syria, Amina enjoyed cooking for others and was especially known for her delectable pickled vegetables. Amina eventually enrolled in a 12-week business entrepreneurship class at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. The Welcoming Center, a partner with Latter-day Saint Charities, works to help immigrants find better employment and engage in their community. In 2018, that’s exactly what Amina did. She opened up a booth at the Reading Terminal Market, where she sells Syrian pickled vegetables, desserts, and other foods. Amina’s friend and Welcoming Center mentor, Nicole Marcote, gushes about her: “Amina has taken the very little resources she has had and made the most of it. A lot of it has to do with her resilience and her relationships with people.”
Creating More Economic Opportunity
The Welcoming Center works hard to create economic opportunities for immigrants by providing employment training, English as a second language (ESL) classes, skills training, business entrepreneurship courses, and community engagement programs. There are many innovative and thoughtful organizations across the United States that are working to help immigrants find better employment and become engaged community members.
In my role as a program officer for Latter-day Saint Charites, and with my decade of experience in the refugee sector, I have met many hardworking, committed refugees and immigrants who, like Amina, are working toward a thriving economic future. I also know that more needs to be done to create an inclusive economic environment for immigrants, refugees, and asylees. We are very proud to partner with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and many other organizations that are working to create opportunities for others to not just survive, but thrive.
We Can Help Others Embrace Economic Self-Reliance
Through our combined efforts as neighbors, organizations, and communities, we can continue to emphasize and pave the way for economic self-reliance. Latter-day Saint Charities is continuing its work to move economic inclusion forward. This year we’ve created a grant to help refugees and immigrants become economically self-reliant. The fund focuses on programs that help refugees and immigrants obtain technical skills for careers that provide living wages, mobility, and financial security.
When we actively work to make sure everyone has equitable access to employment, living wages, and economic opportunities, we can help boost the long-term integration of refugees and immigrants.