IRC Staff Spotlight: Yordanos Berhe, Case Worker, shares her own personal story with IRC on two continents.
Yordanos joined the Oakland office in March, 2011. She is fluent is Tigrinya and Arabic and assist many Ethiopian, Eritrean and Iraqis resettling in Oakland. Yordanos has worked for the IRC in Eritrea and Oakland.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your refugee story:
My name is Yordanos Zerihun Berhe and I was born in the town of Massawa, Eritrea. In 1977, when I was four years old, my family and I were forced to leave our home town and flee to our neighboring country, Sudan, due to the war between Eritrean rebels and the Ethiopian government. Right after we had left Massawa, our home and many others, were destroyed. We didn’t return to Eritrea until 1991, when Eritrea was liberated by rebel forces, now the Eritrean government.
In Sudan, I was a refugee for more than two decades, but with humanitarian assistance I had the opportunity to complete high school classes and a university degree. In 1999, I graduated from Ahfad University for Women in Khartoum, with a degree in Business Administration and Women Studies and Community Development.
How did you first get involved with the IRC?
Right after my graduation, I returned to Eritrea and stayed with my family in Asmara, the capital city. I started working with one NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) as a Gender Officer and later with Petroleum Corporation of Eritrea as a Finance and Administration Head until the end of 2002. Through these experiences, I learned about the IRC. In the beginning of 2003, I joined IRC in Eritrea and served as Accounting Assistant and Assistant Program Officer until the office was shut down by the Government of Eritrea in 2006. Working with the IRC in Eritrea was a good opportunity for me. It helped me explore and develop many skills needed in humanitarian work.
What role did the IRC play when you arrived in the U.S.?
Due to the situation in my home country, my husband and I, like many other Eritreans left Eritrea and came to the United States for a safe life. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to come to Oakland where IRC helps refuges and asylees. When I first arrived, I got great assistance from the IRC office and we were able to develop our skills, go to school and find employment.
How do you think your experience with the IRC will benefit you in the future?
Since my time working with IRC in Eritrea, I have been concerned about refugees and am eager to help and work with refugees. It was a blessing for me to get a second opportunity to work with IRC helping refuges here in Oakland, California. I am happy to return to the humanitarian work that I started in Eritrea.