Written by Marguerita Macharia
Aliyah* and Maria both came to the United States looking for a better future for themselves and for their families. Aliyah came to the US back in February 2016 as a single mom with her two children. Maria arrived more recently in December 2018, with her husband and eight children. While they had different skillsets and past work experience, both women were eager to start workto support their families and coincidentally both started in the same first job here in Baltimore. The position is a food production facility that hires over 70 employees from IRC annually. It is a cold working environment, but the position pays well, is consistent, and offers benefits.
Both Aliyah and Maria are a part of the Women’s Employability Program (WEP) at the IRC Baltimore; a program geared towards breaking the barriers of women that hinders their ability to work. During one of the WEP cohort meetings Maria shared her frustrations at how difficult her new job is at this food production facility and that sometimes her “hands feel numb”. She likes that she was trained by colleagues who spoke her same language, but was clearly disheartened by the cold environment. Aliyahresponded to Maria’s feelings with compassion and understanding.
Aliyah expressed that she understood that the work was hard for Maria, but emphasized, from experience, that she has the strength to continue on. Aliyah no longer works at that facility and is now a front desk agent at a hotel. She communicated to all of the women in the cohort that they have to try their best even when things are difficult as this is just their first step here in the United States. Every time the women in the program share their experience or challenges, they are met with love and solidarity.
The women in the WEP program are a networkfor each other. They are all indifferent partsoftheirjourneys in the US,but they can all learn from each other’s experiences. There have been many challenges for these women stemming from them being forced to leave their home countries to start anew here in Baltimore. Now they have a new community that reminds them that they are not alone.
*Some names may have been changed for confidentiality.