On August 17th, we said farewell to Hope Newman, our career development AmeriCorps VISTA, who spent the last year creating and developing opportunities for refugees and New Americans to advance in their employment and enroll in training programs. The career development program was made possible by the Worldwide Education & Research Institute who provided seed funding for the program.
Hope took time to write about her experiences as an AmeriCorps VISTA:
I am truly grateful for the experience and knowledge I’ve gained here at International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City. I came into this with no expectation and just a passion to help those in need. At times I felt like someone else could’ve done this job a lot better than I was doing. I told myself that if I could change just one person’s life, that’s enough for me. I’m proud to say I served over 45 amazing individuals, nine of whom increased their wages by more than $6 per hour and 13 were enrolled in training programs.
The career development program serves individuals who are motivated to pursue their dreams and adds to the IRC’s existing economic wellbeing programming. I read a study once that stated it takes an average of 14 years after arrival for refugees to reach a living-wage when they delay entry into training and career development programs. My goal, and the goal of the program, is to change that number by helping refugees identify and pursue upward mobility opportunities as soon as possible. They just need a little push to get them started, like a simple phone call.
Yacoub, one of our most motivated program participants, received a CDL license through a four-week course and started working as an entry level truck driver at $19/hr. Soon after, another company hired Yacoub offering nearly $30/hr. He is very happy with his new job and plans to start his own trucking company someday. Yacoub is a great example of the individuals I served through the career development program. More often than not, I find myself researching vocational training opportunities and companies hiring with promotion opportunities. I follow up with program participants to set up online training courses and provide them with the resources they need to succeed.
Being an AmeriCorps VISTA member is very rewarding. Not only are you changing the lives of individuals in the community, you’re also gaining life changing skills and knowledge for yourself as a service member. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I can say that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life and anyone can too. I am sad to leave but I am sure this program will only grow with the help of the next AmeriCorps VISTA service member.
You can learn more about the AmeriCorps VISTA program at the IRC in Salt Lake City and make a difference in someone’s life by contacting us at SaltLakeCity [at] rescue.org (subject: AmeriCorps%20VISTA%20Program%20-%20Inquiry) .