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World Refugee Awareness Month

World Refugee Day is observed annually on June 20 and is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees. It is also a day to recognize the contributions of refugees in our communities. Last year, Tacoma Community House served 176 refugees from 17 countries. TCH has been serving refugees for many years. Significant efforts were made during the 1970s, when the U.S. concluded the war in Vietnam. Thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia fled the Communist regime and many came to the United States. Washington State was the third highest recipient of these refugees, behind California and Texas. One of the first organizations to respond to the needs of Asian refugees was Tacoma Community House. In an effort to help refugees transition, TCH provided counseling, information on employment and educational opportunities, orientation, interpretive services, and English as a Second Language classes.

Paul Many, Tacoma Community House's Job Developer
Paul Many, Tacoma Community House’s Job Developer

With the wave of refugees in the 1970s, there were many who came through the doors of TCH seeking hope and one individual remains to this day. His name is Paul Many. Paul first came to TCH for English as a Second Language classes in the months after arriving in Pierce County from war-torn Laos. Paul said the counselors and teachers were “great and encouraged him to further his education.” Once he completed ESL classes Paul took the advice he received and went on to pursue a degree while he continued to visit TCH. He formed lasting friendships with two of his instructors—Candy Carbone and Margo Trevino. In 1982, a position opened in the Employment Department at TCH. Candy encouraged Paul to apply and he did. With Candy’s help, and Paul’s perseverance, he got the job with TCH as a Job Developer and has been a fixture of the agency ever since. (Photographed above is Paul on the right assisting two clients)

As the agency’s mission has broadened, so has Paul’s reach, touching not only new immigrants, but the poor of all origins, including native-born. “That’s the way it should be,” says Paul, who appreciates the cultural mix and the opportunity to give back to the nation that took him in when he was just a teenager. For the past 33 years, Paul has dedicated himself to the community and his mission at TCH is to establish partnerships with area businesses to fill jobs that fit the desires, abilities and wage requirements of his clients. Often, he drives clients to and from job interviews. He tells them to familiarize themselves with each enterprise beforehand so that they are prepared both to respond to questions and offer a few of their own.  When they get hired he’s thrilled, and in the months that follow, he visits job sites to make sure expectations are met.

The key to Paul’s success in placing clients, is forming relationships with employers; ensuring that employers benefit from their relationship with TCH. “I like talking to employers,” he says. “We always have repeat customers.” Regular contacts include Menzies Aviation, Marshalls, and Safeway. Some in-house job fairs have featured representatives from Concrete Technology Corporation, Ostroms, and Home Depot.

Driven by his compassion to serve his community, Paul has helped countless participants find jobs. Acting Client Services Director, Jason Scales, says “The most amazing part of Paul’s story is how many lives he has changed. He has placed too many people to count in jobs. No one does a better job of representing TCH and our clients to the business community. Paul, as humble as he is, never takes credit for it. He always gives credit to others. The plain and simple fact is that there would not be an Employment Department at TCH without Paul Many.” Under the passion and motivation of Paul, the Employment Department has thrived and now offers more programs and services.

Through his work at TCH, Paul has touched the lives of thousands of job seekers, and frequently bumps into them around town. When they thank him for his help, he sometimes has trouble remembering their names. It’s no wonder why: He usually counsels 30 clients a month. Executive Director, Liz Dunbar, expresses, “Paul Many has a special gift of finding the right job for the right participant. He is one of a kind and we are lucky to have him.” He is a headhunter for the powerless, a talent scout on behalf of the poor, among them job seekers who scarcely speak English. To many people—Paul is a source of inspiration, encouragement and a crucial piece that helps keep his clients and TCH moving forward.

Interested in supporting our work, make a contribution today.

Finally Belonging, by TCH Client Reysis Alonso

On Friday, April 10, 2015, Tacoma Community House (TCH) celebrated 105 years of making positive change in the lives of refugees, immigrants and low income families in the south Puget Sound. Over 500 guests gathered at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, and were reminded, through storytelling and statistics of TCH’s reach and impact, of why it takes all of us doing what we can to ensure that all people have access to opportunities that will help them reach their fullest potential. That we are in this together, that one person’s success is the success of all, was the message at the heart of TCH participant Reysis Alonso’s speech which she shared at the Annual Luncheon. If you were not able to be there or need to be reminded of how powerful her words were, we invite you to read her story.           

Buenas Tardes. Good afternoon. My name is Reysis Alonso, and I would like to say thank you for being here today. I am Cuban. When I was 13 years old my family and I moved to Venezuela in search for freedom and a better life. The 21 years I spent in Venezuela was hard and it became harder when the government turned communist. There were no opportunities and I was barely surviving with my daughter.

My dream was to always move to the United States and in 2004 my dream came true. I was happy because of the hope that was here for me and many other immigrants looking for liberty like myself.

I am a proud Army wife. For 7 years I have moved with the Army to several cities and I have never known a place like Tacoma Community House. I reached Washington on August 18, 2014. I was looking for a place to study English. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website recommended TCH as one of the best places to study English. Caring for a family of 5 is not easy on our budget, but I knew I could study English at TCH because it is not expensive.  For the last 6 months, I have been taking ESL classes and to my surprise TCH does more than teach English. They help people find jobs, they help with immigration and because of TCH, I am on the pathway to citizenship. I also got a job with Home Depot.

Because of your support, I feel better speaking English. I can communicate better with my kids and I feel more secure with myself. Because of your support, I have a job and I finally feel like I have gained independence. I will soon become a citizen of my country, the United States. At Tacoma Community House, I had the chance to go to Olympia and ask lawmakers to keep our programs. I got to motivate my immigrant friends to keep up the good work.  I will soon be able to vote. My voice will matter and I will finally belong.

There is no place like Tacoma Community House. This place has been the solution for my life. My story is unique, but so are the stories of the thousands of people TCH serves. This is about all of us. Please continue to support this beautiful and important work of Tacoma Community House.  Thank you for everything! Gracias por todo!

Interested in helping families like Reysis’? Support our work by making a contribution today.

Employment Workshop

Ready to find employment, but not sure where to start? Crash Course to Employment is an intensive two-week employment readiness program providing job seekers the tools they need to be successful in their careers. During the workshop participants learn about:

  • Goal setting
  • Job search techniques
  • Tailoring resumes and cover letters
  • Job placement services
  • And more

The spring workshop begins on March 23, 2015 and runs through April 2, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Those who are interested in participating in the workshop must attend an information session at Tacoma Community House on Friday, March 20, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.

The employment team at Tacoma Community House is dedicated to preparing individuals for a competitive job market. Upon completion of the workshop, participants are prepared to find employment on their own or receive job placement services with help from a TCH Job Developer.

Download the flyer

Meet Nabeel

There is an Arab saying that “Knowledge is light, and it is the light of your life.” Nabeel took this saying to heart, followed his dream and focused on education at Tacoma Community House. But his life had taken many twists and turns before he arrived at our door.

Nabeel attended school in America through the 8th grade. His parents then moved the family to Yemen so they could learn about their cultural heritage. Years later, Nabeel returned to Tacoma and began a career in the shipping industry. He worked hard as a sailor and wanted to be the best in his profession. “People said I could make it to captain,” Nabeel shared. As a sailor he was financially secure and able to provide for his wife and son living in Yemen.

Working at sea had its rewards, but it did take a toll. With his wife and son moving to the United States to be reunited, it was no longer suitable to be away for extended periods. He left the shipping industry and attempted to find a different profession closer to home. Without a high school education, finding employment was difficult. Nabeel sought help and advice from family and friends and was eventually referred to TCH.

Nabeel enrolled in Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes. After only three weeks his teacher encouraged him to take the GED® tests, which he passed on his first attempt! Excited at the prospect of advancing himself further, he registered in the Crash Course to Employment. Through the workshop he learned that he was capable of more. He improved his interview skills, created resumes and cover letters and gained a tremendous boost of confidence. He began an apprenticeship through the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitter and just recently started a job!

Jubilant with the direction his life is taking thanks to TCH, Nabeel encouraged his wife, Amani, to enroll in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. “I want to show her that knowledge is light, and it is the light of your life,” Nabeel said. An avid supporter of Amani’s education, Nabeel is encouraging her to continue her education through ABE and citizenship classes. “Without your help, I wouldn’t be here,” he asserts. Nebeel and Amani believe that nothing could be better than improving the quality of their lives and becoming fully contributing members of society.

Help more families like Nabeel and Amani by making a contribution today. Click here to donate

Fast Lane to Employment

Ready to find employment, but not sure where to start? Crash Course to Employment is an intensive two-week employment readiness program providing job seekers the tools they need to be successful in their careers. During the workshop participants learn about:

  • Goal setting
  • Job search techniques
  • Tailoring resumes and cover letters
  • Job placement services
  • And more

The employment team at Tacoma Community House is dedicated to preparing individuals for a competitive job market. Upon completion of the workshop, participants are prepared to find employment on their own or receive job placement services with help from a TCH Job Developer.

The fall workshop begins on September 15, 2014 and runs through September 25, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Those who are interested in participating in the workshop must attend an information session at Tacoma Community House:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 9:00 a.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 3:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 11 at 9:00 a.m.

Download the Crash Course to Employment Flyer

Jasmine Bakery is Awesome

Tacoma Community House and Jasmine Bakery have an almost 20-year relationship, sending English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education clients to Bob Miller at Jasmine Bakery for employment. Bob runs a family-owned bakery and encourages his employees – who come from all over the world – to only speak English at work, no matter what their level. He really likes hiring ESL students, as they want to work, they are willing to learn and try different jobs, and they have a great overall work ethic. He also finds having a multi-cultural work force makes a good team – they like learning about each other’s backgrounds and form close working relationships.

Bob encourages his employees to go to school and is willing to work around people’s schedules for classes. He wants them to grab every opportunity afforded them here in the United States.

Meet Duy

Duy Nguyen Pham took English as a Second Language classes at Tacoma Community House (TCH) for six months at the end of 2012, moving from ESL level 2 to level 4. He also sought services from the Employment Department which led to a job he enjoys. A few months ago, he started his job as a maintenance technician at Jasmine Bakery. He works on fixing motors, maintaining beaters and working different bread machines. He was an electrician in his home country of Vietnam, so this job is a great fit for him. He misses his classes at TCH, especially his teacher, but working and taking care of his family is his priority. His eight month old daughter is number one with him right now, but he will encourage her to go to school, especially college, because “college is important.” He plans to come back to school soon though, as “school helps with anything!”

Help more individuals like Duy by making a contribution today. Click here to donate.