Spotlight Story: Aster*
This article marks the beginning of a series that will focus on an individual or group of individuals who have been identified as some of our many shining stars. We believe that these inspiring individuals deserve a moment in the spotlight to be recognized for their hard work and determination.
Aster* came to the United States from Ethiopia in 2009 seeking safety from political and ethnic persecution. Having obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics and a master’s in International Development, Aster had accomplished much before coming to the United States. In addition to leaving her family, friends and homeland, coming to America meant leaving her professional life and a job she loved as a program manager for an international development organization.
Aster at the SWRC Office in Silver Spring
Photo taken by IRC Silver Spring Intern
Aster was committed to working as soon as possible in the U.S., but finding the meaningful job she wanted was not simple. “When I came here I didn’t think that I would be successful enough,” she says. “[…] People used to tell me, ‘You might not be successful and you have to start from scratch in the United States.’” She submitted applications diligently – sometimes up to 20 per day – and worked as a server in a restaurant and cashier in a small store while networking constantly in the hopes of returning to her field of community development.
Aster also connected with the IRC in Silver Spring where she received assistance to update her resume, search and apply for positions, and build her interviewing and networking skills. The relationships she built with IRC staff provided more than employment assistance; she also found emotional support and a community that uplifted her through the difficult adjustment period. “Even if they can’t find you a job the way they interact with you is really important. They can encourage you and make you feel refreshed,” she says of the IRC staff that served her.
After many months of searching, Aster was offered a position as a “Community Connector” in her local county government, working to connect members of the local Ethiopian community with services available to them. The position gives her the opportunity to use the skills she developed back home – “working with communities, finding out what really are their needs, and how to really understand them.”
As she continues to rebuild her life in the United States, Aster is thankful for the opportunity to help others and to live in safety. Aster’s persistence, optimism, outgoing personality and generous spirit have prepared her to succeed and to give back to her the community she now calls home. “The right that I have in this country – when you know that you have the right to act without any kind of discrimination, I don’t want to take that for granted and that really helped to push me forward.”
For more information about assisting refugees to integrate into their community contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
*client name has been changed to protect confidentiality