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Finding Her Dream Job

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Refugees like Fateme have been a key part of making face masks in Arizona.

Under the current circumstances, it can be difficult to find a job that feels right. Fortunately, Fateme Seyedahad has found a job that she enjoys and where she can give back. She was assisted in her search by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Tucson Economic Empowerment Program.

Fateme is an refugee from Afghanistan, a single mother of two daughters, and a woman pursuing her dreams of learning English and advancing her career.

“I would like to study and take classes,” Fateme said via an interpreter. “I want to study nursing.” She plans to practice English further before beginning nursing classes. 

Prior to the pandemic, Fateme was working a housekeeping job at a hotel. She wanted to do something different and enlisted the help of Danni Shtraus, employment specialist.

The Economic Empowerment program pairs refugees with an employment specialist who conducts interview practice and resume preparation with clients. In addition, the specialists assist clients to complete job applications and navigate new bus routes as they secure new positions.

“[They have] been helping me a lot,” Fateme said of Danni. “If I ever had a problem, [they have] been very nice and helpful. [Danni] is very kind and nice.”

Danni helped Fateme search and apply for another job suited to her interests. “She was not happy with her previous work. She asked me to help her find another job,” said Danni.

The International Rescue Committee in Tucson has continued to help refugees find employment during the pandemic. (Photo was taken prior to mask ordinance.) Photo: IRC

Things came together and Fateme did get another job. “I really like this job,” Fateme said, of her position with a local manufacturer, where she worked as a seamstress.

This position made her part of the COVID-19 response. Fateme, for a time, was making face masks, about 500 a day. “It’s not hard for me. But some days I do get really tired. But overall, it’s very good.” The masks were sold and used locally in Tucson as part of an urgent order. By making masks, Fateme contributed to helping to keep the local community healthy.

The face mask contract is now fulfilled, and the company has moved on to other products. Fateme is now making shower curtains. Given a choice, she would continue to work on masks. “I did like the masks more because I love helping and I love sewing.”

Helping refugees find quality employment is just one part of the IRC’s response to the pandemic. In addition, we are delivering care packages, helping refugees apply for assistance, and providing other services remotely. Learn more here.

Story by Dennis Godfrey, IRC volunteer.