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Refugee Women Thrive

Marjan's Story

Marjan’s story is an inspiring one. In February 2018 Marjan and her husband moved to Sacramento from Afghanistan. After being safely resettled in the United States, Marjan was motivated to find employment in order to reach economic self-sufficiency as soon as possible. In order to reach her goal, Marjan participated in the IRC’s Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) program where the IRC assisted her preparation for the U.S. workforce. During her time in this program, she developed her resume and worked tirelessly to effectively showcase her expertise for each job application. In the meantime, she also worked on perfecting her English skills and began taking freelance interpretation jobs.
Marjan was able to access services offered at the IRC and take on freelance work because her husband was able to provide transportation for the family. Considering her husband’s career obligations, job prospects for Marjan were limited without adequate access to transportation. “When I arrived in the United States I had no driver's license and I did not drive in my home country. The importance of owning and operating a car in California quickly became apparent to me” said Marjan. Consequently, Marjan added a driver’s license to her bucket list of goals to achieve.
After getting her driver's license with the support of Drive to Thrive, Marjan was able to search for jobs that were further away. She ultimately received a job offer from the San Juan United School District in October 2018. To advance her economic self-sufficiency even further, Marjan reached out to the IRC’s financial coaches to apply for auto loans designed for refugees who have no credit score in the United States. She and her husband were ultimately approved for a $10,000 loan and successfully purchased a second vehicle for their family.  Marjan is now interested in the IRC’s Career Pathways program to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher in the U.S.
The IRC’s services and women-specific support is transformative. Marjan said, “The IRC made the transition into the United States easier for me and my family. I can now independently go to my medical appointments and take my kids to school next year. The time and resources from the IRC made all this possible.”

Career Pathways

Many of our clients at the IRC in Sacramento hold professional degrees with many years of relevant experience to complement their advanced education. Yet, our beneficiaries face barriers in securing employment consistent with their education and experience in California. In response to this need, the IRC in Sacramento provides a Career Pathways program. This program provides one-on-one career coaching, tailored professional training in a variety of job sectors, and preparation for interviews and employment.
“Our main goal is to help our beneficiaries return to their former career fields” said Yana Mann the Career Development Specialist. The Career Pathways program especially strives to place women in positions with low frequency of female applicants.
For example, Khatera is a current Career Pathways beneficiary who fled Afghanistan due to persecution. Khatera discovered her passion for a career in information technology early on. After attaining her degree in computer science in Afghanistan, she dedicated her time to teach IT classes at female high schools in Kabul.
Upon her arrival to the United States, Khatera discovered the Career Pathways program and saw it as a great opportunity to realize her dream as a software engineer. With the help of the IRC, she is taking the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer program at an accelerated pace aiming to graduate in April 2019. Upon graduation, Khatera will continue to receive Career Pathways support through ongoing mentorship, career coaching, and job search. Khatera’s confidence in her abilities and commitment to her goals grows everyday as she progresses through the Career Pathways program. She recently shared her long-term professional aspiration to establish her own software company in the future.
The IRC is committed to narrowing the gender gap and supporting refugee women to achieve their potential in their new home!

Drive to Thrive

As part of the IRC’s 2020 vision to narrow the gender gap in the refugee community, we launched a women-specific pilot program called Drive to Thrive in the summer of 2018. Drive to Thrive aimed to provide women with the resources to secure their driver's licenses in California. In this program, we identified women without a driver's license in the refugee community, enrolled them in driving school, and covered the cost of attendance.

While passing the initial permit test can be relatively easy, most refugee women do not have access to a car to practice their skills in order to prepare for the behind-the-wheel test. For instance, Marjan passed her initial permit test but failed the behind-the-wheel exam. With the help from the Drive to Thrive program, Marjan retook the behind-the-wheel test and passed her driving exam in September 2018!
Obtaining a license means much more than just operating a vehicle. It can be a determining factor in gaining long-term employment, education access for adults and children, along with social independence and integration. The International Rescue Committee is working to remove barriers of self-determination for women. You can also be part of this endeavor by donating using this link by Mother's Day, May 12thand sharing the gift of independence and mobility with refugee women in the Sacramento community.
Drive to Thrive offered an innovative service model that equipped 27 women with customized support that included DMV permit preparation and behind the wheel training.

Staff Spotlight: Victoria Dzorka

Victoria Dzorka is the Wellbeing Coordinator at the IRC in Sacramento. She provides crisis intervention, mental health referrals, support groups, wellness workshops, and oversight for the Intensive Case Management program. Victoria became familiar with the IRC through her undergraduate work and interest in anthropology. As the Wellbeing Coordinator, she works daily with some of the most vulnerable refugee communities in the United States. Her work helps our beneficiaries access a better quality of life in Sacramento. Victoria’s holistic approach emphasizes client autonomy which in turn restores a sense of self-sufficiency and internal control in clients’ lives. Victoria said, The most rewarding component of my work is what happens when a client feels heard and seen; despite the language barriers, cultural differences, etc., human connection is universal and has a profound impact."
Mothers around the world all want the same thing for their children—safety, health and a bright future. For refugee mothers who have fled conflict, the wellbeing of their children is uncertain—but they bravely fight for it, every single day. Syrian moms share what they love most about their daughters here.

Get Involved with IRC Sac This Month

BUY Bus passes! Bus passes help IRC beneficiaries get to job interviews, medical appointments, and achieve their education goals. You can drop off  bus passes at 2020 Hurley Way, Suite 420 in Sacramento. 
DONATE Show your support for refugee women! Make a difference in the lives of refugee women and donate using this link by Mother's Day, May 12.
VOLUNTEER Make #RefugeesWelcome!  Email for more information on occasional one-time volunteer opportunities on evenings and weekends.
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International Rescue Committee · 2020 Hurley Way, Ste 420 · Sacramento, CA 95825 · USA

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