The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future. One of our organizational goals is to empower new Americans with the tools and resources they need to become self-sufficient as they build a life in the U.S. This World Refugee Day, we’d like to introduce you to Iver, an asylee seeking a safe future for his family.
In Venezuela, Iver owned an IT business that installed cables for phone and security systems. After being granted asylum in the United States, Iver wanted to find a job working with technology. He and his family heard about the IRC in Salt Lake City and the services we offer to refugees, asylees and immigrants as families work to positively integrate into their new community.
In Salt Lake City, Nolan La Barge, employment specialist, works one-on-one with newly arrived refugees and asylees to help them find their first job in the U.S. Early employment guides refugees and asylees on the path to economic self-sufficiency, Nolan explains. “For many of our clients, working in the United States gives them economic freedom for the first time in their lives, or for the first time in a long time, to be able to make the kind of economic decisions that you and I make on a daily basis.”
Many new Americans begin work in entry level jobs, usually unrelated to the career they pursued in their home country. After securing a job, they work with the IRC’s economic empowerment team to develop a plan to further their education and career. For Iver, however, it was different.
Iver enrolled in our employment services and began to search for jobs with Nolan. After hearing about Iver’s technical background and work experience, Nolan knew the perfect job for him. A co-owner of a local tech company, VLCM, volunteered at the IRC late last year. He was impressed with our work and connected with Nolan, offering to hire new Americans with IT experience or training. Iver was the perfect candidate.
Iver is grateful for the opportunity to work at VLCM: “It’s so exciting for me because when you hear all the stories from people who came here, they always said ‘the United States [is] a really great place to live, but it’s not really a great place to work.’ Because most of them don’t have any experience with the language, normally they are working in warehouses, framing stuff, so it is a low-rate job, with a high physical [demand]. They tell me it’s really hard to work in the United States.”
VLCM taught Iver new skills to support his professional growth and development in the field, and he enjoys the camaraderie of his team, “In my work back in Venezuela, I was just doing the cabling and security systems. But all of the AV part, I didn’t know about that until we came here…My coworkers are really awesome, they know a lot of stuff and I’m learning a lot [from them].”
Gene, Technical Director of Communication Services at VLCM and Iver’s supervisor, was impressed with Iver’s skill and work ethic: “Iver has been a really good asset to our team. It’s important that employees fit into our team. What we like about Iver, is not only that he had some experience, but his personality—that's when I knew he would fit into our team. He had the right skillset and the right personality to fit into our team.”
Though Iver is appreciative of his new job in the U.S. with a supportive employer, he struggles to grapple with his family’s experience being forced to leave their home country to seek safety and a future in the U.S.
“For us, this experience has been hard, but at the same time good. We’ve found a lot of people, a lot of good people, a lot of good experiences with the people. It’s hard to pass through this journey.”
Throughout the struggles, however, Iver remains positive: “I love Utah. I love the city, I love the people, I think it’s a wonderful place to [raise] a family. I have two kids—6 and 3 [years old]. Now they are really happy. My daughter, it was a little difficult for her, at the beginning, because of the language. She started school and she didn’t understand. But now, she loves school, she speaks English very well, she speaks better than me. Thank you, Gene, thank you for the opportunity, and thank you to the IRC.”
Gene sees the value of employers building relationships with organizations like the IRC, “We’re really happy about [hiring Iver]. We probably would have never connected if someone [at VLCM and the IRC] hadn’t developed a relationship.”
Want to help new Americans, like Iver, as they begin a new life in Utah? If you own a business, consider hiring a refugee or asylee. Email us at SaltLakeCity [at] rescue.org for more information.