Staff Spotlight: An interview with Farishta Bawar, Employment Specialist
As an employment specialist, Farishta equips IRC clients with the skills and knowledge to become employed in U.S. and helps area employers fulfill their business needs.
What professional experience did you have in Afghanistan before arriving in the U.S.?
I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in pharmacology from Kabul University in 2007. After graduation I worked with DK German Clinic initially as a pharmacist and then as a
physician assistant for seven years. Besides providing professional services to my patients I was also helping medical staff with linguistic barriers and working as a medical interpreter. I also had the opportunity to serve the American Embassy in Kabul by conducting medical screening procedures to more than 10,000 visa applicants.
During my 7 years of experience I have also participated in minor surgeries and supported the clinic for more than one year with the American Embassy Visa medical screening project and served more than 10,000 applicants with their medical exams and reports.
What was your experience like coming to the U.S. and how did you connect with the IRC?
I came to United States in September 2014 with my husband as a SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) holder. We were eligible for the visa since my husband worked with the U.S. as a linguist and cultural advisor for 7 years in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan: Helmand and Kandahar.
When we arrived in the U.S., we reached out to the IRC in Silver Spring for assistance with resettlement services. The IRC supported me and my husband to find us our first job in the U.S. The IRC also helped my husband to get his license as a special police officer which help him to find stable job.
After I started working my first job, the IRC also provided me a scholarship to Montgomery College for a Pharmacy Technician Certificate. Meanwhile, I also got interpretation training through the IRC and started working as an interpreter in March 2015. I was able to maintain 2 jobs at the same time. These two jobs helped me to survive and pay my bills. The IRC also helped me overcome other challenges like helping me finds childcare for my daughter, assisting with the evaluation of my professional degree from Afghanistan and connecting me to the community by providing me a family mentor, enrollment in advance English classes and many other things.
Beyond your position as an IRC interpreter, what other positions have you held at the IRC?
After working more than 4 years as an interpreter and understanding the work and values of IRC, I applied for the temporary position of interpreter services coordinator in August 2019 to fill in for a staff on parental leave. This position allowed me to work with both IRC offices in Maryland. This position also gave me the opportunity to grow and learn from amazing IRC staff in both offices. After successful completion of that position in January 2020 I was hired as an employment specialist with IRC Silver Spring office.
My experience as an interpreter provided me a great opportunity to better understand and serve the refugee community with quality communications and dignity. This position prepared me to face the work challenges and adopt to the work environment easily and successfully. As an IRC client over the past years I also learned how to navigate the U.S. system and explore the job market. Both these qualities helped me to serve my clients better as an employment specialist.
What do you value about your job and are there any highlights you would like to share?
My job with the IRC is not only a path towards a career in the humanitarian field but also to demonstrate my passion to serve refugees who are trying to establish a new life having fled persecution. I love my job because I get to live my humanitarian values while serving the refugee and wider community. When I see our clients thrive, it motivates me to learn and improve my skills.
I also feel that the IRC is my second home. Whenever I had an issue and did not know where to go, the IRC was always there to help me to overcome any obstacles in my path. The IRC is a ray of hope for every refugee and immigrant and I have the honor of being part of this great mission and spreading hope and brightness for those who need it.