America's Newest Refugees
Though they are relieved to be in America, the Khilovs and the other Meskhetians face problems common to refugees: inability to speak English, lack of education, concerns over housing and jobs and cultural dislocation. When the International Rescue Committee staff approached the Meskhetians about organizing English classes, the response was enthusiastic.
Twice a week, about 40 Meskhetians pack the community room of their apartment complex in Tukwila, near Seattle, for an English class run by IRC volunteers. IRC caseworkers help the Meskhetians enroll their children in school, find apartments, learn employment skills, and apply for Social Security cards.
Finding jobs has been the biggest challenge but the Meskhetians’ eagerness to work has helped most get good jobs. Nodari is the maintenance technician at the Tukwila apartment complex. Despite never having worked outside her home, Fatima found a job as a housekeeper at a hotel. She has helped other Meskhetian women get hired there as well. Still other refugees have found work in construction, landscaping and other fields.
For Fatima, the real opportunities await her children. “In Russia, it didn’t matter…how well they do in school, they aren’t allowed to get ahead,” she says. “(Here) my children have a real future.” Photos >>