When my wife and I finally settled on which house to buy, we had many reasons to support our decision, none of which was its proximity to the refugee community of Clarkston, Georgia. However, every errand to Home Depot, Publix, and the Post Office found us interacting with both employees and fellow customers classifying themselves as refugees. As I began to develop relationships with these beautiful and interesting people, I began to learn more about the refugee resettlement process.
One factor that stood out to me was the obvious need for employment, and not just for the financial benefit.
I came across a compelling study on poverty several years ago conducted by the World Bank entitled Voices of the Poor. Researchers surveyed 60,000 people in 60 countries to find out how the poor defined poverty. The results were surprising, as the large majority of people living in poverty described it and its effects as psychologically challenging, not simply a lack of material resources. They cite feelings of “shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression,” and the list goes on. The premise is when people have jobs to help them meet their own needs and provide for their family, they are more fulfilled mentally and physically.
This study was one of the factors that led me to begin working for HOPE International. We help people in some of the most underserved places in the world start or grow a business by using small loans and savings services. My job is to raise the funds needed to continue our operations and provide more loans to our nearly one million clients concentrated in 18 countries around the globe.
This role gives me the opportunity to travel around the Southeast raising funds for HOPE and sharing the message of how work can bring fulfillment in someone’s life and how a job is truly an investment in an individual’s dreams.
As I sit with generous business people in Atlanta and other cities who have supported HOPE’s work, I often find myself asking them how we can help or support them and their business. These conversations often lead to the business owner describing how difficult it is to find and retain good employees. Whether they cited stricter immigration law or unskilled American workers, based on my sample size, businesses of all sizes in every industry seemed to be in desperate need of talented, intelligent, and loyal people.
Ever an optimist, I believed I could help these business owners connect with the refugees in my neighborhood who were so desperately looking for work.
The first refugee introduction I made was to a HOPE donor running Mr. Mister Mosquito Control Company. He needed a couple more responsible and efficient guys to service their client base in Atlanta. I discovered a local organization helping refugees with job search and preparation skills in Clarkston called Friends of Refugees and looked through some resumes for people who might be a good fit for Mr. Mister. I immediately connected with Amara, resettled in Atlanta from Sierra Leone in West Africa, and Gedlu originally from Ethiopia. After explaining to them about the details of the job and answering many obscure questions, they both agreed they were interested in going to an interview to learn more.
The following day, I picked them up and we rode together to the Mr. Mister office and practiced mock interview questions. They performed well in the interview and were both excited when offered the job. Amara even told a family member about the company and we helped him through the hiring process as well!
The owner at Mr. Mister said he had paid up to $1500 to a local staffing agency to find staff members half as competent and eager to work as the refugees he had brought on his team.
I knew that if we could place more resettled refugees with local companies, it would be important to ask them to pay competitive fees for the service as to demonstrate value for the worker.
We officially launched a for-profit business a few days later and called it Amplio Recruiting, believing there are ample jobs available and ample good people to fill them. Learn more in part two next week on how we became Atlanta recruiting experts as we are staffing Atlanta companies with the talented refugee workforce.