A group photo of the IRC Atlanta's Employment Services team
Today, we spotlight a cornerstone of the IRC in Atlanta's programming, the Employment Services team.
Photo: IRC Atlanta

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Atlanta is known for supporting refugees to integrate and prosper as they work to rebuild their lives in Georgia. Behind these efforts is a committed staff of more than 150 professionals who bring invaluable skills and experience to our mission of guiding newly arrived clients through their first months in the United States. Today, we spotlight a cornerstone of the IRC in Atlanta's programming, the Employment Services team, whose work provides the foundation for helping our clients to become self-sufficient, thriving individuals within the Atlanta community. 

Dede Shimiyimana, Employment Services Manager 

Helan Amedi and Dede Shimiyimana
Helan Amedi and Dede Shimiyimana
Photo: IRC Atlanta

Dede Shimiyimana, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was resettled by the IRC in Atlanta in 2015 after living with his family in a Ugandan refugee camp for 18 years: “Shortly after my 10th birthday in November 1996, I was forced to run from my home country to Uganda with my parents, two sisters and two brothers,” Dede shared. “Being in the refugee camp for the first time, I was between the devil and the deep blue sea.” 

In this time, Dede experienced incredible difficulties. “It seems unbelievable to tell people now that I went to school under the rain, jumped swamps to get to school, and that I studied under the shade of the trees.”  Resilient and determined, despite the hard circumstances his family faced, Dede obtained a bachelor’s degree in education from Kyambogo University in Uganda. After completing his degree, he worked as a middle grade mathematics teacher for seven years and served as an administrative assistant for the Refugee Welfare Council for six years under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

I was resettled by IRC and looking at the mission and the services they provide, and with my past experience with other resettlement agencies… I had that background, and experience and passion to help fellow refugees to strive.
—Dede Shimiyimana, Employment Services Manger at the IRC in Atlanta

“My hope escalated when I was told that I was going to be resettled in the U.S.” Dede shared. “It sounded like heaven to me, as I knew I would get more opportunities to take care of myself and my family.” Like the clients he supports, Dede assumed many roles in his early days in the states, including jobs in housekeeping and sanitation. In 2015, he joined the IRC in Atlanta, where he now helps newly arriving refugees  secure employment and achieve self-sufficiency in their early days of resettlement. “I was resettled by IRC and looking at the mission and the services they provide, and with my past experience with other resettlement agencies… I had that background, and experience and passion to help fellow refugees to strive.” 

Almost a decade later, Dede leads a team that helped connect 298 refugees and immigrants to jobs with Georgia companies in 2023. Knowing the hardship refugees face before resettlement, Dede expressed the most rewarding aspect of his job is empowering clients with the tools they need to support themselves and their families: “When I look in the past, when refugees are in a camp, they have food rations which means they must line up every month and come to get food. What is rewarding to me is when they get here and the Employment Specialists are able to work with them and in a few months these clients are self-sufficient to meet all their needs and they can buy their own food.” Dede also shared that seeing his team members—many of whom, like him, are former refugees themselves—take pride in their roles has its own rewards: “My team, most of them have been migrants or refugees. So, something that motivates me when I see them, they have a smiling face. Sometimes they don’t have a lot of options to give them jobs, but they’re always able to work hard to make sure they make our clients happy.” 

Solange Niyonsenga, Employment Services Caseworker 

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but growing up in Rwanda, political conflict was a constant presence in Solange Niyosenga’s early years, forcing her family to shift back and forth between the two countries. The 1994 Rwandan genocide upended Solange’s way of life and moved her back to her birth country. “After genocide, my family left Rwanda, them being refugees in Congo from then. Also, because there’s been war after war in Rwanda, that’s when I lost my father and we grow up back in my country. But yeah, it was not easy.” 

After completing her bachelor’s degree in finance and business studies at Kigali Independent University in 2019, Solange left Rwanda and resettled in the United States with her then fiancé, now husband. As soon as it was time for her to find work, she quickly decided what she wanted to do: “I learned about IRC when I was back in Rwanda,” Solange shared. “And since I was one of the people who experienced being a refugee, I wanted to be among the staff—those people who are giving back to the community, those people who are helping people who are really in need.” 

After a friend notified Solange about a position in finance with the IRC in Atlanta, she didn’t hesitate to put her hat in the ring and secure a spot on our team. After a few months, she found an even better fit for her skills and interests in Employment Services casework. “When I saw the opportunity, I was like this is good, then I’m gonna do what I love most, talking to the client, making sure they’re good, making sure that I talk to them regularly.” 

Every guidance or every service that I do for them, I feel like I owe it to them
—Solange Niyonsenga, Employment Services Caseworker at the IRC in Atlanta

As a caseworker, Solange’s role is to speak with clients and coordinate with other IRC departments to ensure new arrivals have the proper documentation to begin working. “Immigration and Client Benefits will help apply for the document,” Solange explained. “I am the one who makes sure they have applied for them and when they get the documents, I make sure that I direct them to the Employment Specialist because they apply for jobs for the clients.” 

Beyond connecting new arrivals to job opportunities, Employment Services is also responsible for teaching clients how to provide themselves: “When they start jobs, we make sure they start earning their money so that they can pay their rent on time. We also make sure their power, gas, and other essential utilities are paid.” These processes can be daunting without the additional strain of starting over in a new country—with this in mind, Solange is proud of the key role she plays as a member of Georgia’s refugee community who has gone through resettlement herself. “I make sure the clients have peace where they sit. That they have someone to talk to and make sure their bills are paid or make sure their documents are processed, being carried or being denied. Every guidance or every service that I do for them, I feel like I owe it to them.” 

Alina Linchevska, Employment Services  Caseworker 

Dede Shimiyimana and Alina Linchevska
Dede Shimiyimana and Alina Linchevska
Photo: IRC Atlanta

The newest member of the Employment Services team, Alina arrived in Georgia after fleeing the war in Ukraine almost two years ago. She obtained her degree in humanities from Kyiv National Linguistic University in 2021 and began her journey at IRC as a Case Aide in May 2023. “I was new to the country when I applied for this position and I am honored to collaborate with IRC in helping our clients to adjust their lives in this welcoming country.” 

When asked what called her to this work, Alina shared, “I was interested in applying for a position where I could use my language skills and also, I can help others with their difficulties or challenges they can overcome, especially if you come to the country and you have no one to support you.” With French, Ukrainian and English in her skillset, Alina exemplifies the incredible language diversity of among the Employment Services team, who collectively speak more than 20 languages, including Arabic, Spanish, and Swahili.  

Among the several aspects of the IRC in Atlanta’s mission that hold significant meaning for Alina, she highlighted the unique nature of our work as a welcoming community: “It’s new for me because in my country it’s not a common type of job, there aren’t many people coming to Ukraine to resettle and start new lives.” By contrast, the IRC Atlanta office has welcomed than 28,000 refugees from over 65 countries to resettle in communities across the state since first opening in 1979. “I’m glad to find IRC, and it really motivates me when people come back to me and say they are grateful to have a new job. There’s a lot of challenges in this position but as I said before, being able to do something to step-by-step help them adjust to this new life is the most encouraging part for me.” 

Helan Amedi, Employment Services Supervisor 

Helan Amedi and Dede Shimiyimana
Helan Amedi and Dede Shimiyimana
Photo: IRC Atlanta

Though originally from Kurdistan, Helan Amedi was resettled by the IRC in Atlanta when she was an infant and considers herself a Georgia native. Nonetheless, Helan recognizes the difficulties her parents faced in providing her with the life she leads now. “Because of my background and my family’s background,” she shared, “I witnessed the hardships my parents had to go through and that made me want to help others that are in similar situations.”  

When I told my parents, they let me know that we were resettled by [the IRC] right in Atlanta. So, when I found that out, I felt like everything had come full circle and I’m right where I need to be.
—Helan Amedi, Employment Services Supervisor

After completing her bachelor’s degree in political science and international affairs at Georgia State University, Helan was eager to serve alongside the same organizations that helped her family all those years ago. She joined the IRC in Atlanta as an intern in April 2021 and it was only then that she learned our office was the same one that assisted her family during their early days in the States. “When I told my parents they let me know that we were resettled by [the IRC] right in Atlanta. So, when I found that out, I felt like everything had come full circle and I’m right where I need to be.” 

Since working with IRC, Helan has enjoyed seeing clients grow from their initial job placements to higher-skilled and higher-paying roles. “My very first client started working and was not placed in his ideal job. And a year later he contacted me and said he’d gotten his CDL license and was making decent money. I didn’t have a part to play in him getting his CDL license, but he recognized me for giving him that steppingstone to build off of.” 

Yasiro Soumaine, Employment Services Caseworker 

Yasiro Soumaine and Helan Amedi
Yasiro Soumaine and Helan Amedi
Photo: IRC Atlanta

Like Helan, Yasiro spent most of his life growing up in Georgia after arriving in the U.S. from a refugee camp in Chad in 2008. He and his family are originally from the Central African Republic and shared that his experience as a refugee called him to this work: “I understand what it is to come to a new country, to start a new life. That is the reason why I said I would start working for the IRC because later I could see what life got for me.” After receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science and international affairs from GSU, he joined the IRC in Atlanta and has been giving back to his community ever since. 

Yasiro also thoroughly understands the tenacity our clients arrive to the U.S. with and when asked what he would like employers understand about refugees, he shared, “Our clients are very hardworking. They have an ambition, they have a goal. Because you know, leaving their country, coming to a different place, they need something to survive, not only to survive but to see that their kids become somebody. So, something I would tell everybody is that our clients are very dedicated, hardworking, and just looking for a chance to change their life and the circumstances of their families. In most cases here, in employment services, a lot of them come here and when they work, they’re helping people out back home.” 

In addition to the fact that new arrivals have the drive and skills necessary to excel in any career, Yasiro also emphasized that hiring refugees creates stronger workplace dynamics: “With diversity comes new ideas, new approaches to the way you do the job, it doesn’t matter what it is. Everyone is innovative in their own way. They bring their own ideas on how to do things. So, with that diversity comes a lot of strength. And when they work together, they’ll find a way to solve everything.” 


To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Director, Heloise Ahoure, at [email protected] or 678-636-8941.  

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