Samson: Family Man and CDL Certified

Samson: Family Man and CDL Certified

Samson is a refugee from Eritrea who arrived in the U.S. in July of 2014. He came with his wife and two children to pursue a life where he and his family can be safe from persecution. When he moved to Seattle a year and a half ago he supported his family through delivery driving with Amazon. He came to the Refugee Resettlement Office looking for financial assistance to help jump start his own career in America. One of the programs that RRO offers to their clients is Individual Development Account (IDA), which is a match saving program that can be used for education, purchasing a car or to start saving for a down payment on a home.

Samson was interested in getting his CDL training. Through the help of RRO’s IDA match saving program, we were able to contribute $2,000 and with his own savings, Samson was able to complete his CDL training at Pacific Trucking School in Rainier Valley. Since February, Samson has been driving his truck with Savannah Trucking Service. He expects to make three times the amount of salary that he previously made from Amazon. Congratulations Samson!

Farhan: Patience and Dedication Lands the Job

Farhan: Patience and Dedication Lands the Job

Refugees in the Seattle area seeking work to attain self-sufficiency face numerous barriers. The logistical considerations of finding childcare during working hours and the difficulty of securing reliable transportation complicates their job search.

Refugees with a high level of English will encounter disconnects between American professional norms and those to which they are accustomed, but they are still motivated to obtain a good job. At the RRO, many members of this enthusiastic group bring their persistence and wealth of experiences to their hunt for employment with great success.

Farhan was briefly resettled in central Washington before relocating to Seattle. He worked with the RRO staff to compile his resume and apply for jobs. The diverse array of jobs and domains in which he had worked since leaving his home country of Somalia was astonishing. Farhan’s wide-ranging experience before reaching the US made him a desirable candidate.

However, the experience of applying for jobs in the US and going through the lengthy interview process without landing a job was trying. An in-depth American interview process for manual labor positions, which in his previous experience required only a few cursory practical questions prior to hire, was frustrating and confusing at first. Farhan’s persistence paid off, and for the past several months he has been employed full-time in residential property maintenance, receiving pay above Seattle’s already higher than average minimum wage.

Bashir: Husband, Father and Employed

Bashir: Husband, Father and Employed

Bashir arrived from Afghanistan in November 2016, after working with USAID for 9 years as a procurement specialist. While working with USAID, he assisted with purchasing items for building projects throughout the region. Since Bashir worked for a US organization in Afghanistan, he felt threatened by the Taliban. Now, he is very happy to live in the US and feels safe. Bashir declares, “I love it!”

He feels very fortunate to be living in the US especially since it means his five year old daughter, who is disabled, can get the treatment she needs. While they were living in Afghanistan, she didn’t have access to resources and therapies that can help her become more independent and mobile. In addition to accessing treatments, a nurse can watch her during the day, allowing Bashir to work full time and his wife to attend ESL classes. His wife tested into the 3rd level of English and enjoys learning English.

Both Bashir and his wife graduated from Kabul University and hope to continue their education in the US so they can get jobs relevant to their specialties and give back to their community. They have high hopes for their children as well. Bashir explains his oldest daughter, “can already speak English better than me,” and loves practicing English every chance she gets.

Kerya – Childcare Entrepreneur

Kerya – Childcare Entrepreneur

Kerya is a single mom, who came to Washington as a refugee from Eritrea in December 2012 with her three sons. When Kerya and her family first arrived, it was difficult while they were relying on TANF assistance. Eventually, she worked for several different companies that kept her family afloat. Kerya has experience raising and caring for children, so she actively started working to open her own business.  A friend told Kerya about the Refugee Resettlement Office (RRO) and their assistance programs for refugees wanting to open a childcare business.

Kerya visited the RRO in May, wanting to learn more about starting her own childcare business. She started her STAR training and orientation classes to get her childcare license. After eight months of hard work, she finally was able to get a Washington State Family Based Childcare Business License in November.

 During the entire process, the RRO provided her with technical and financial assistance to start her business. “Though starting a new childcare business in Washington State is a very lengthy and complicated process, it went very well with me because of the technical and financial support of RRO. Now I’m able to do business in my own house and I can take care of my children as well,” said Kerya.

Injera Week at RRO!

October, 2017
Marianna Clair


Traditional Ethiopian Flatbread


During injera week at the Refugee Resettlement office, our staff and ESL students learned how to make and prepared injera from scratch.  Injera is a staple flatbread that originates in Ethiopia and is served with every meal. It is a fermented spongy flatbread made from the grain teff that is packed full of iron and is gluten free. In Ethiopian food culture, injera is used as a eating utensil and as an ‘edible plate’ for meat and vegetarian stews and it is considered good manners to only eat injera with the right hand.

What you will need:

Teff Flour    5 pound bag

Self-Rise Flour    1.5 cups


Lukewarm Water    Up to 4 cups

Mixing Bowl/Container

Hot Plate

**Please note that this recipe will yield a LARGE quantity of injera, if you want a smaller amount decrease your ingredient amounts. Injera will begin to taste stale after six or seven days**

1. Place your teff and self-rise flour in the mixing bowl or container that you are using. *If you are using a clean or new container you may need to add yeast into your mixture to active the fermentation process*

2. Next you will need to slowly add water to your teff and self-rise flour mixture. You will want to combine all ingredients thoroughly for at least two minutes with either your hands or a wooden mixing spoon – the batter will begin to resemble the consistency of concrete mix. Continue to add water to keep the batter wet, and once all ingredients are mixed together you can add enough water to submerge the batter in the container.

3. Put the batter aside for up to three days at room temperature to allow it to ferment. Your injera will start to bubble and begin to develop a sour smell and flavor that it is known for. A film of mold will begin to develop on top of the water as it ferments THIS IS NORMAL! We recommend changing the water at least once during the time you set out your injera. Note: If your injera does not start to ferment you may need to add more active yeast.

4. Heat a large circular hot plate to 450 degrees. The batter should be a thin liquid at this point that you can easily pour. Once the hot plate is fully heated, begin to pour a thin layer of the batter mixture onto the surface and cook for a few minutes. Injera should be thicker than a crêpe, but not as thick as a traditional pancake. It should rise slightly when cooking.

5. Cook the batter until holes start to form on the surface of the bread. Once the injera is dry and fully cooked remove it from the hot plate. Once it has cooled you will have freshly made injera, enjoy!

Local Success Story: From Persecution to Amazon HR

Local Success Story: From Persecution to Amazon HR

Noorullah worked as a Senior Human Resources Officer for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Afghanistan for seven years. He was responsible for the day to day operations, working with current and future employees to assist with recruitment, training and development in the human resource department. Noorullah, his wife and one year old son registered for Refugee and Special Immigrant status in 2014. They fled Afghanistan earlier this year and were granted Special Immigrant status to come to the United States, for all of the hard work and dedication that Noorullah has put into USAID. Under the current travel ban, only 50,000 refugees are to be admitted in the U.S. this year, a decision made by the new president. Of these arrivals, Special Immigrants make up 35% of all refugees in King County.

Noorullah and his family arrived in the U.S. in July 2017 and were welcomed with open arms at the airport by friends and family eager to help the new arrivals in any way possible. Through the hard work of the Refugee Resettlement Office and his case manager, Noorullah and his family were placed in an apartment in Kent where they would be close to their friends and family.  Despite the current refugee crisis in the United States, Noorullah and his family have adjusted to life in the United States with ease.  Just two months after arriving in the United States, Noorullah was thrilled to announce to his friends and family that he was offered his dream job at Amazon working full-time in the Human Resources Division.  Free from persecution in the United States, Noorullah and his family are finally able to start their new lives and support others in their community.

When Noorullah is not working, he likes to spend time with his wife and son as much as possible. He hopes that his son will have more opportunities growing up in the United States and can follow in his footsteps of being successful and a contributing member of society. At the Refugee Resettlement Office, we are so proud of Noorullah and his accomplishments that we cannot wait to see what the future holds for him and his family. Congratulations and the best of luck!

Ali Alkaam Inad: Starting a Business

Photo of man preparing flat breadAli Alkaam Inad

Starting a Business





Ali Alkaam Inad came to the U.S. as a refugee in November and is already putting his Ph.D. in Agriculture to work here. While taking a course at Washington State University, he is renting 2 acres of farmland from VIVA Farms. The Viva Farms Incubator Program began in June 2009 to provide new farmers affordable access to education, training and technical assistance; capital and credit; land and markets.

On his farm in Burlington, Ali has already planted regional vegetables and is growing a new type of white strawberry, all of which he plans to sell locally. One of the biggest differences between farming here and in Iraq is using modern techniques to reduce the amount of labor and reduce costs. Now, Ali uses weed cloth and mulch to cut down on weeds, which means he does not need to use tractors or heavy machinery to farm the land. With help from the Micro-E program, Ali has quickly transitioned from his job in Iraq and put his diverse expertise to use in the Puget Sound region.

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WSU News Article about Ali

“Flat Bread Lab: Newly Arrived Iraqi Farmers Explore Western Washington Wheat Opportunities”

Sarita Schaffer, WSU

Ali Inad and Ghazi Abood hail from the birthplace of wheat – the Fertile Crescent. Inad holds a PhD in Plant Breeding. He taught agriculture and researched wheat and maize at the University of Baghdad. Abood was a mechanical engineer. He received his training in Germany and has worked all over the world. Both men’s careers were upended by the Iraq war so they’ve come to the Pacific Northwest to put down new roots.

Over the winter Inad and Abood completed Washington State University Extension’s farm business planning course and in April they launched Ali’s Farm, a small acreage vegetable and berry farm at Viva Farms, Washington’s premier farm business incubator. Once established, they plan to scale up and grow wheat and other grains.

That’s where Dr. Stephen Jones and his Bread Lab come in.

Like Dr. Inad, Dr. Jones holds a PhD in plant breeding and specializes in wheat. As the director of WSU’s Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center, Jones has pioneered research on western Washington grain, emphasizing opportunities for local farmers to partner with the region’s artisan bakers, brewers and flour mills.

When WSU Immigrant Farms specialist and Viva Farms director Sarita Schaffer brought the two wheat breeders together, the conversation quickly turned to flat bread and samoon, Iraq’s most popular breads. Jones suggested that Inad and Abood invite a baker from their community to spend a day in the research center’s bread lab, to test how Western Washington flours performed against their current ingredients. Perhaps there was an opportunity for Inad and Abood to plant, or if necessary, breed wheat especially for the Puget Sound’s nascent flat bread market.

Around 2 million Iraqis fled their country between 2003 and 2011. Many are resettled in Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. But the majority, an estimated 16,000 per year, are taken in by the United States.

Ali Alabdullah, the baker selected to partake in the Flat Bread Lab, was resettled in Everett. He drives commercial trucks as his primary occupation but bakes bread and cooks between driving gigs. “I’ve been cooking and baking for 30 years,” Alabdullah told us as he kneaded a batch of flat bread dough. “I have six sisters and five brothers so my mother was always cooking. I remember being swatted at for touching the bread. My first job was to flip the bread when it was done cooking.”

Dr. Jones looked over Ali Alabdullah’s shoulder as he mixed, kneaded, and shaped the dough. He studied the baker’s proportions of white versus whole wheat flour and asked him what qualities he looks for in his flour. What flavor and texture? How much elasticity? What strength? Dr. Jones showed Ali, Dr. Inad and Ghazi the sophisticated rheological testing equipment that gives the bread lab its Willy-Wonka flair: a farinograph that measures the dough’s sheer and viscosity, an alveograph that measures flexibility by inflating a bubble in a thin sheet of the dough until it bursts, a consistograph to calculate water absorption and strength, and a falling number machine that measures the amount of sprout damage that has occurred within a wheat sample.

So what’s the verdict? Is there flat bread wheat growing future in store for new Skagit Valley farmers like Inad and Abood?

The baker was delighted with the results. So were the researchers and graduate students who were drawn to the lab as the smell of fresh flat bread and samoon wafted down the halls of the research center. “I think you would have a larger market beyond just serving refugee families – I’d buy it!” exclaimed one taster.

For now, Inad and Abood will focus on the vegetable and berry crops they’ve planted at Viva Farms, including a rare white strawberry variety that Dr. Inad is growing from seed. But with the flat bread lab’s positive results, they see wheat fields in their future.

Issa Kamil: Buying a Home

Man wearing patterned shirtIssa Kamil

Buying a Home

Originally from Iraq, Issa and his wife and two children fled his home country in 2008 when the conflict around him became too much for his family to endure. “Like any refugee, you’re not wanting to leave your home. But you must move on when it gets too hard,” Issa says with his wife and children beside him.  Since completing his IDA savings in October 2012, his family has already seen a number of fortunate developments arise.

Issa maintains a monthly budget thanks to his financial literacy training, and has found hundreds of dollars in monthly savings since purchasing a townhouse in Everett, which has ended up being more cost-efficient than the rental apartment his family previously lived in. In addition, his wife Shirook is in the process of becoming a licensed family home childcare provider, and is on a clear path to licensure now that they no longer live in an above-ground apartment complex. “The children,” Issa says while laughing, “are just happy to have more space.”

Without hearing his story, you might mistake Issa and his family for any of the other workaday Americans calling this pristine block of townhomes in Everett home. The children seem happy and at peace in their new home, having water fights in the yard and taking walks with their parents to a nearby park in the summer. “Right now this place makes sense for us. We were happy in our apartment, but we actually love it here,” Issa says, smiling.

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Abel: Saving Money

Smiling manAbel

Saving Money

For young people like Abel, a 24-year old refugee from Eritrea, the prospect of starting from scratch in a new society on his own hit him suddenly. “You know, I think all people want to make success. But we struggle, all of us do. That was what I realized right away. That maybe I needed a little help,” Abel said.

Despite working full-time at SeaTac International Airport – a two hour daily bus commute from his residence in Shoreline, Washington – Abel showed a willingness to challenge himself further and reach for new goals. Last year, he signed up for evening classes at Seattle’s Evergreen Truck Driving School, which provides would-be freight operators with hands on training to pass the Washington state Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) exam. By signing up for the Diocese of Olympia’s IDA program, Abel got the opportunity to receive a grant that covered half the cost of tuition for the six-month long course.

“The class was very helpful. And it prepared me for what I needed to do next,” Abel said, smiling. “Start my own business.

Completing his IDA account gave Abel important benefits. For one, finishing the CDL course gave him the knowledge and skills he needed to succeed in a career in freight operation. Second, the financial discipline that he earned through completing his IDA savings plan gave him convenient entry into the diocesan micro-enterprise loan program. Since 2003, the RRO has managed a diocesan loan fund that, with help from RRO, allows qualified applicants to borrow micro-loans towards start-up businesses. Abel eagerly completed the required business planning coursework, credit counseling sessions, and market research offered by diocesan staff, becoming eligible for a $5,000 loan. Within a month of finishing his CDL course, he had already managed to get his trucking business off the ground, using his loan to invest in an FC2 Freightliner truck.

“I found a for-hire company in Seattle. So I’m ready to work for the Port (of Seattle), and anyone else,” Abel says laughing, standing beside his new truck.

While Abel’s example shows what great feats can be accomplished through an individual’s initiative to succeed, he is quick to give credit to the support he received from others. “All of the classes I took (at the Diocese of Olympia) really helped me – helped me to understand financial problems and the business world, and to spend my money the right way. And of course the grant, which gave me my education. So I’m just very thankful for all of the help I can get.”

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Yosief Gebrezgabhair: Learning English

Man wearing baseball capYosief Gebrezgabhair

Learning English

Yosief Gebrezgabhair grew up in Eritrea before coming to the U.S.A. in September of 2010. He came alone, leaving his wife and two children in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, as he looked for opportunity in the U.S.A. Suffice to say, Yosief had a lot to take care of. Learning the language, finding work, and sponsoring one’s family is a very tall order, but it was just another day in the life of Mr. Gebrezgabhair.

After about a year, Yosief was relieved to find out that he and his family would once again be reunited. When the rest of his family came to the U.S.A., his wife, Angeset, started attending ESL classes. Their kids would often come along as well, drawing pictures quietly while their parents learned.  Yosief’s brother, Efream, even came along and was a teacher’s aid for a long period of time. Efream helped pass out papers, correct homework, and tidy up the classroom, which was an immense help to the teachers.

Eventually, Yosief grew out of our ESL class and started looking for work. He took a job as a fish processor up in Alaska where he worked 12 hour days for eight months. Upon coming back, Yosief started helping out at the Refugee Resettlement Office, providing assistance to our case workers. He helped new refugees assimilate into our society by assisting them with everything from picking out furniture to teaching them to ride the bus. In a brief year and a half, Yosief went from a being new refugee himself to being a liaison to other new refugees. This incredible progression was spellbinding to witness and is inspiring to recall.

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