By Nigist Abraha Gebretsion, IRC Caseworker
Every time you meet with Madeline Acha, you feel a sense of peace and optimism radiating from her face. I remember asking her about it once and she said, “IRC gave us hope and the time to sleep. When you sleep, you get the time to think better and move on… We found IRC a place to rest because IRC gave us hope once again when all our hope was gone.”
Madeline was in college when civil war broke out in Cameroon. With her husband under threat, the family fled to Nigeria. After her husband sought and was granted asylum in the US, Madeline and their three children eventually joined him in Maryland in January of 2018.Madeline says that the financial and other in-kind support she and her family got from the IRC helped them to be able to pay for their rent, food, and other home goods. “I and my family were provided with clothing, and equipped our kitchen, living room and bedrooms with donations. IRC staff welcomed us as a family, removed the trauma that we came with because we came from a war zone and killings, where we had lost so many family members.” Madeline added that she does not know the fate of many additional family members who were left behind, as they are currently in hiding.
Through the IRC’s Economic Empowerment Program, Madeline and her children attended trainings on how to look for jobs, received assistance with resume preparation, and were provided with professional interview outfits and other kinds of support. Before long, she and her two oldest children were employed and her youngest son was enrolled in school. Additionally, Madeline was enrolled in a six week training to become a home health aide. When I spoke to them recently, they were applying for their Green Cards with the IRC’s Immigration Legal Services program, and Madeline was thrilled to report that she was working full-time in the medical field. With the stability that the job brings, Madeline talked about her creative endeavors and the designing skills that she had used back home, and how she plans to continue designing in the near future and to one day start her own business.
Her son Armstrong reflected, “I got strong support from my employment specialist. I got introduced to my first part time job at Home Depot and my employment specialist found a full time job for me at Hilton shortly after. Now I am working hard to save money and further my education as I do not want to take [a] student loan." Madeline concluded, “from the depth of my heart, I love IRC. The staff is wonderful, welcoming, and friendly no matter which part of the world you come from. I wish everyone here to continue empowering others and doing what you are doing. I am so proud and count myself and my family lucky to be connected to this organization.”