Friday Feature: Abdi and the Golden Ticket


Abdi, a proud resident of Maine

Sarah Vail, Higher’s Network Engagement Coordinator and her partner shed some tears while listening to This American Life’s recent podcast telling Abdi’s story of achieving his dream to resettle in the U.S.

Every refugee’s journey is different and Abdi’s (a Somali refugee living in Kenya) random selection for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery is rare.

I can’t find the right words to convey the impact (and relevance) of his story. From the struggle to survive in a third country to his new love for Dunkin’ Donuts, the resilence, determination and strength Abdi – and all refugees – bring to their lives wherever they live is inspiring.

Click here to access the podcast recording or transcript. You’ll laugh, learn, feel inspired and probably shed a few tears like we did. Thanks to Sarah for recommending my new favorite Friday Feature.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

Homestays for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

roomrentInnovative Opportunity for Early Community Integration?

There’s a lot of bad news around the world for refugees. Higher has made a deliberate choice to avoid posts about most of it.  We focus on supporting employment services and the positive difference we make every day in our clients’ lives.

Click here for a bit of good news – and an innovative solution. In Austria, home stays and roommates address a housing shortage for refugees and asylum seekers.

Could this idea offer a solution for the lack of affordable housing in urban environments where skyrocketing rents have a negative impact on early self-sufficiency through employment?

While the article doesn’t mention employment, a more integrated approach to resettlement likely offers benefits for employment, as well.  Sharing houses with long term residents offers earlier chances for English language immersion and for building local networks.

Anyone have contacts to find out more about the details of how it works and what it might mean for rapid employment and community integration?

Friday Feature: Eid, Ramadan and Recipes

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 10.04.12 PMTomorrow marks the end of Ramadan with Eid al Fitr, one of the two most important Muslim holidays.  Click here to read an expanded explanation of how many of your Muslim clients and colleagues will be celebrating.

If you’ve been lucky enough to receive an invitation to iftar (fast breaking meal) during the past month, you might have gotten to try one of the 22 recipes in this article featuring traditional Ramadan food from several Muslim countries.  The link was provided by a Muslim friend who has tried several of the recipes and all but two of the featured dishes.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

Upwardly Global Services for Highly Skilled Refugees

upgloAnnouncing a July 28 (1PM EST) webinar introduction for refugees and refugee employment programs

Everyone should already be aware of Upwardly Global programs and resources.  UpGlo exists to help highly skilled professional refugees and other immigrants achieve career success and contribute their motivation, training and expertise to U.S. economic growth.

Here are three ways to make sure you are making full use of UpGlo resources to better serve refugee professionals.

1.  Register to attend an UpGlo webinar.  Include your clients, too!
Upglo 3 step program

Three simple steps you’ll learn more about in the July 28 webinar

Attend a one hour UpGlo webinar on July 28, offered especially for the refugee employment network.  You’ll learn about eligibility criteria and program services available nationally.  There will be plenty of time for questions, too.

Your highly skilled refugee clients would benefit from attending themselves.  The information is substantive and accessible for high-intermediate levels of English language proficiency.

2.  Help medical professionals explore career options in their fields.

Learn more about another excellent FREE web-based resource presenting alternative career pathways for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dentists  in a previous Higher blog post.

3.  Hear how UpGlo programs have made a difference for immigrants and mentors

Watch the Youtube video in this post, which shares the impact of UpGlo’s model in the voices of immigrant professionals and volunteer career mentors who have participated and benefitted.

If you’re trying to establish an employer partnership or employment mentor program with a hospital or care facility, sharing this video would strengthen your pitch!

Three Resume Building Ideas for YOU

DST signs

Here’s a past example of an Armenian version of a Daylight Savings Time sign from Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego, CA. Easy, right?

Looking for something different to do this summer?  Have we got opportunities for you!

With refugee arrivals still slowish, you might have time to build your resume portfolio, learn something new or help refugees in a different way.

Check out three easy, fun and useful ideas from Higher.  Get in touch at and we’ll fill you in on all the details.

1. Share your experience providing employment services for victims of trafficking. What’s different? What’s working for you that others could learn from? We’re working on a special post for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (July 30).

2. Submit a success story about a part of your work that makes you feel proud.  Help your peers learn from one of your innovative programs, strong employer partnerships or client achievements.  (And get national visibility, too.) Read our new guest blog post guidelines for instructions and examples.

3. Translate Daylight Savings Time signs in client languages.  We provide the sign in English.  You provide the written translation in the client languages spoken in your team.  Send them back to us and we’ll make all of the languages available to everyone a few weeks before November 1.  Let us know which languages you can contribute.

Friday Feature: A Young Rwandan Refugee’s Story

Photo credit:  George Burnes/Harpo

Photo credit: George Burnes/Harpo

From a refugee camp, several transit countries to family reunification live on Oprah, this autobiographical essay tells a familiar story in a powerful and unique voice.

Nothing Higher could add will increase the impact of this piece.  Read it for yourselves (click here).  Enough said.


Hear Six Refugees Describe Their Career Paths

nurseClick here to hear 6 refugees talk about their starter jobs, career paths, what they learned along the way and who helped them progress. They are available for free from the Forced Migration Innovation Project at SMU in Dallas, Texas.

Hearing from other refugees directly has a powerful impact on clients ability to accept some of the difficult concepts we know are important for their long term career success. These videos could be great additions to your job readiness classes. For example:

  • an Iraqi architect is especially articulate about important concepts and how to get started in the U.S. workplace.
  • a Burundian nurse outlines a common reentry strategy for medical professionals with practical detail about how long it can take.

Read more about FMIP work in a previous Higher eNewsletter highlighting Refugee Resettlement in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX.


Reader Question: Anyone Have a Refugee Employment Facebook Page?

question markStephen Johnson, Higher Peer Advisor and Early Employment Specialist at IRIS in New Haven CT is looking for examples of programs who are running their own employment services facebook page (separate from their agencies’ organizational presence).

IRIS is considering the idea as a platform for employers, advocates and higher skilled job seekers to directly exchange job leads and other job search information.

If your employment program has tried something similar, get in touch with Stephen directly or email and we’ll share your advice in a future blog post.

stephen johnsonStephen Johnson is a previous Employment Specialist with World Relief Seattle. He has a BA from Baylor University’s School of Social Work and a master’s degree in International Development from Eastern University. He specializes in community organizing and interagency collaborative efforts.



Friday Feature: 37 Maps About Immigration

map snipThis collection of 37 maps (Click here) covers everything from slave trade routes to the history of San Francisco’s Chinatown to the actual routes of “La Bestia”, the Mexican train many migrants ride toward the US-Mexico border.

There’s something for every interest. For me, the most striking feature of these maps is how they reflect the importance of immigration to our national conversations throughout history.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)


Religious Observance and Employment: Ramadan

ramadan mubarakRamadan started on June 17.  For the next month, your Muslim clients and colleagues will be fasting during the day until July 17.  You can read more about this holy month in this article from The Guardian.

Also, consider how this religious observation could impact employment stakeholders:

Your Colleagues

If any of your colleagues are fasting, they might be a little cranky as they get used to a new schedule. You might feel uncomfortable eating and drinking in front of them. My Muslim friends and colleagues always tell me not to worry about that. You can certainly ask your colleagues about it – or anything else you’re curious about.

Your Clients

Talk to them about the need to continue following their employer’s policies about attendance, giving advance notice and requesting days off. Ask them what special issues they anticipate around Ramadan in their workplace and respond accordingly.


Consider sending them an email explaining Ramadan and what it might mean for some of their employees. It’s a great excuse to get in touch and they will appreciate receiving another free service from you. If you work with employers of large numbers of Muslim clients, consider offering local opportunities to learn more. Many mosques host iftar (fast-breaking daily evening meals) dinners that are sometimes open to guests.