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Immigrants in US Take Job Training

Yafet Deferesu (r) from Ethiopia, and Perline Rasoanoromalala, from Madagascar working on their resumes
Yafet Deferesu (r) from Ethiopia, and Perline Rasoanoromalala, from Madagascar working on their resumes

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Deborah Block

Many Americans donate items, especially clothing, to Goodwill Industries. The non-profit organization sells the items at lower prices in their stores in the United States, and other countries. The money is used to provide job training for the disabled and disadvantaged, including immigrants in the U.S.  Our reporter visited a Goodwill store and training center in Arlington, Virginia, where some immigrants are learning how to search for a job.  

Yafet Deferesu, from Ethiopia, and Perline Rasoanoromalala, from Madagascar, are working on their resumes in hopes they will get a job.  

She came to the United States six months ago, after obtaining an immigrant work visa. Deferesu has been in the U.S. for 30 years and has had a difficult time getting a job because he has disabilities, including being blind in one eye. Each of the immigrants recently completed a free, three-week career enhancement program at Goodwill they hope will give them an edge in a tight job market.

“Goodwill, I think, is a good support for us job seekers and also for immigrants to help us to understand how it works here in the U.S.," said Perline Rasoanoromalala.

“Every day I come here, the energy is so positive that it promotes what I want to accomplish and finding a job," said Yafet Deferesu.

Rasoanoromalala has a college degree and worked for a U.S. development organization in Madagascar.  She would like to work for a development agency again.  Deferesu has been out of work for several years and is looking for a job as a bookkeeper.

At this Goodwill training center, they receive career counseling, including how to interview for jobs and market their skills. Lisa Bauer, the training center manager, says they also learn how to put together a resume.

“Resumes are different throughout the world and here the employers really expect to see what that person has achieved," said Bauer. "Really almost asking somebody to boast about themselves, and in other countries, that’s not favored at all as a practice.”

Immigrants also learn that cultural differences may be misinterpreted during job interviews and could hinder them from getting work.

“I did not know that crossing your arms is perceived a different way in the U.S.  For us, it’s a sign of I’m listening carefully to you," said Rasoanoromalala. "Here maybe it’s a lack of openness.”

Deferesu says he learned how important it is to have good communication with the people who interview him.  

“I did interviews for the first time in a long time and I was very excited about it because it was so rewarding," said Deferesu.

Rasoanoromalala says Goodwill is also helping her dress for success.

“They give me clothing vouchers, which means I can go to Goodwill’s retail shops and get clothes or shoes," she said.

Goodwill has 2,500 stores around the world, mostly in the U.S. and Canada.  There are also stores in 14 other countries, primarily in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia. The newest store recently opened in Seoul, South Korea.

Jim Gibbons, head of Goodwill Industries International, says the organization gives its clients a realistic assessment of their skills and abilities.

“What I think Goodwill does for the disabled and immigrants is to have high expectations, give the facts, and then surround the person with the tools and support for them to be successful," said Gibbons.

Rasoanoromalala says that support is making her hopeful she will find a job in the near future.

“America is a land of opportunities, so I keep faith, and cross my fingers as you say," she said.

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