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Client Success Stories

Just outside of the main drag of Columbia City, a quaint, red brick Ethiopian restaurant hugs the corner of Rainier Avenue South and South Juneau Street. The name of the restaurant is Deen, not to be confused with its previous name Dini. The restaurant serves Mediterranean and east African food and is owned by a man named Ismail Ibrahim.

Ismail is a refugee from Eritrea. He was forced to leave his country after war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998. He spent the next ten years living in transit in both Sudan and Malta before finally being resettled through the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to the Seattle area in May of 2018. Despite his multiple moves, his passion for working in restaurants is something he has consistently prioritized. He was able to find jobs in Sudan and Malta in restaurants and has done everything from kitchen work, to taking orders to bussing tables and cleaning.

When he arrived in Seattle a friend of his suggested they look into opening a restaurant together. Ismail had always dreamed of owning his own business but wasn’t convinced it would be possible. “The hardest part about opening a business is the financial part of it,” he said. “Also, I was brand new in Seattle and I knew I would struggle a bit when I first started, but to overcome you need to stand up first.”

Ismail and his friend came to the Refugee Resettlement Office looking for financial assistance to open their business and found it through the New Roots Loan Program. The program is funded by the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and offers refugees and asylees living in the United States the chance to start or manage their small business. With the help of the loan program, they were able to open shop almost immediately.

So far, the business is doing great. Ismail plans to announce the new management of the building to the community and hold a grand opening this fall. He also hopes to continue to grow his business so that he can employ a full staff. “Your dreams have no limits here,” he says.

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Shukri came to the US in the summer of 2010 from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. She was forced to flee her home country of Somalia in 2006. When she arrived in Seattle with her family she was enrolled in the LEP Pathway ESL services program with the Refugee Resettlement Office. It was her first experience in going to school. She didn’t know how to respond to common information questions such as:

Hi, how are you? What is your name? Where are you from? She started off in level 1A and worked with teachers and volunteers to understand the basic concepts of English communication.

With diligent studying and repetition she moved quickly through the ESL coursework and achieved level 3. After getting to level 3 she felt she was ready to secure employment to help her young family become more self sustaining. She went on a number of interviews and was offered a job as a housekeeper at a local hotel. She excelled in the position and was able to help support her family.

In July of this year Shukri’s hard work and dedication helped her fulfill a lifelong dream as she was sworn in as a US citizen on July 4th at the Seattle Center. ESL classes helped her achieve the dreams she has for herself and her family. “I love this country and am happy to be a part of it!”

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Updated: Aug 21, 2018

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!

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