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Employment Success Story

Meet Natura

Our employment team helps participants generate a resume, prepare for interviews, find employment, and more. Learn about Natura’s journey to success with help from the employment team.

1.) Where do you work and what do you enjoy most about it?

I currently work as an Outreach Professional at Sound Outreach. What I love most about my job is working with clients and connecting families with programs and benefits.

2.) What is the most important goal that you plan to accomplish?

My goal to acquire full-time employment has been met! Now, my goal is to purchase my first home in the very near future.

3.) Who is your hero and why?

At this time, I can’t say I have hero in my life. What I can say is every individual that makes it one more day, given their unpleasant circumstances, is a hero in my book.

4.) What is the most important thing that you learned from the Employment Program at TCH?

The Employment Program at TCH taught me there are still caring and kind individuals who want to see you succeed regardless of barriers. Additionally, it’s great to work with an organization who offers so much to the community.

Interested in supporting clients like Natura? Make a contribution today.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Our Client Advocacy program seeks remedies for victims of crime – primarily related to domestic violence and sexual assault against immigrant and low-income individuals living in Pierce County.

Read a client’s story on their journey to safety:

Jennifer’s story is one of courage, resilience and a second chance. Born and raised in Kenya, Jennifer has always carried the spirit of determination in her. When she was 25 years old, she went into business for herself. She cultivated some land where she grew and sold watermelons. In the midst of her already stable life, she met, fell in love with, and married a US Army man stationed in Kenya. Together they moved to England and after a year and half there, they relocated to the Pacific Northwest. The relationship quickly became abusive and knowing her life was in danger, Jennifer escaped. She found her way to Spokane, WA and lived there in a women’s shelter. Jennifer’s advocate worked tirelessly to get her connected to social services that would help her gain control of her life. Knowing that she’d have more access to comprehensive social services in Western Washington, Jennifer was referred to the YWCA of Tacoma and began receiving counseling through their Violence against Women Act (VAWA) programs which ensures employment stability and economic security for survivors of violence. However, because Jennifer was also an immigrant, the YWCA referred her to Tacoma Community House where she was able to get both legal help in severing ties with her abuser and immigration assistance that would put her on the pathway to citizenship and give her access to myriad resources.

When asked to share her thoughts about Tacoma Community House, Jennifer said, “TCH is a very impressive place. Their help has been far beyond anything I could imagine. Not only have they helped me heal from my past, but they have helped me reach new heights by assisting me with my immigration status in connection with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP).” NWIRP promotes justice by defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, advocacy and community education. Part of NWIRP’s services include partnering with other organizations like Tacoma Community House in helping its program participants navigate policies and procedures that cater to their varying immigration needs, including helping survivors of domestic violence obtain U visas, conditional permanent residence or an I-360 which are all special pathways to citizenship for survivors of domestic violence.

Jennifer is grateful that TCH was not only committed to her survival but wanted her to thrive. “I don’t think I would be at this point on my journey without Tacoma Community House. The staff has been my pillar of strength throughout this process. In spite of everything I was going through, because of TCH, I knew I was going to be OK.” Jennifer was certified to work under the conditional permanent resident status which gives residency to the immigrant partner of a US citizen for 2 years upon the dissolution of their marriage. Under this status, Jennifer applied for a job as a firefighter and even went through the initial process to be part of the US Army.“ I wanted to prove to everyone that I was strong. Though none of those positions was the right fit, trying them out was a result of the new-found confidence I’d gained because of Tacoma Community House.”

Jennifer landed the right job in medical billing and coding; working at a physical therapy facility. “I have the pleasure of meeting people and through conversation I get to remind them that though they are in pain from an injury, they will heal again.” She expressed special excitement in having the opportunity to assist the Seattle Sounders, who use the facility she works at. While enjoying her accomplishments, Jennifer continues to work with Tacoma Community House’s legal advocates to become a permanent resident without condition and she will eventually apply for citizenship.

Healing has come for Jennifer in surprising and unexpected ways. In addition to her newfound job and stability, Jennifer was able to find her aunt and uncle who left Kenya when Jennifer was 10 years old, in Seattle.  “It’s been wonderful to reconnect with them. Now, my parents in Kenya get to rest easy knowing that I am fully surrounded by love. I have so much to be grateful for. It took many caring advocates to get me where I am today.” The journey for Jennifer began the moment she took charge of her life and sought help at the women’s shelter in Spokane. It took a good turn with the help of the YWCA and she has taken the final step in reclaiming full ownership of her life because of Tacoma Community House.

Interested in supporting clients like Jennifer? Make a contribution today.

Concrete Technology Corporation Reflection

We value all of our partners. Below is a reflection from Kaylee Davis the HR Manager from Concrete Technology Corporation:

“I truly enjoy working with Tacoma Community House.  TCH was one of the first places Concrete Technology Corporation’s then HR Manager, Virginia Robinson, introduced me to TCH and we continue to call upon you today. Paul, Arrie and other members of your staff have always been gracious in our requests for help with job fairs, community partnerships, and for sharing talented, motivated individuals who have become part of the CTC family, like D. Alan Graham, Malik Masten, Kang Yi, Chhoeurb Chhin, Moumen Zareghi, and Hugo Cornelio to name a few.

Like TCH, Concrete Technology Corporation has long been involved with supporting the local community and we appreciate the help and support TCH gives to its clients/students because in return, we receive employees who are willing and able, and just good people to work with. Without TCH we would really be left with a shortage of skilled individuals in an increasingly tight labor market.”

Interested in supporting our work, make a contribution today.

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.

Meet Corey

Former education participant, Corey, returned to Tacoma Community House recently to show his gratitude to the community that encouraged him to take and pass the GED® tests. Corey explained that he dropped out of high school in D.C. during his junior year. He fell behind in his studies and eventually slipped so low that he gave up. Corey spent some years in the state of Washington as an adolescent, so when he moved back, he began taking Adult Basic Education classes at TCH in September 2012. It was “redo part two” for Corey. He decided to come to TCH because his father had taken classes here as well.

Corey credits his teacher at TCH, saying, “I only had one class and that was for science, math, reading. I only had one teacher, and she was definitely great! I was only in the course for maybe two or three weeks. I was scoring high on the pre-test she gave me,
so she told me to go take the GED® tests. She told me, ‘just go.’ I went and I passed the first time!”

Corey is currently attending Tacoma Community College and focusing on Communications and Broadcasting. “I want to one day be a news broadcaster. No, not for sports. I would hope to be an anchor.” He shared that he aspires to do meaningful work like Oprah Winfrey.

He encourages others to further their education and pursue their dreams. “For anyone that still has time to get your education from elementary, middle, and high school I strongly recommend you to do all of that while you can. That’s something that I wish I would’ve known before.”

GED® classes are held Monday through Thursday and serve students in Washington state. The Adult Basic Education (ABE) program helps students with basic skills as well as GED® level work. 

Interested in supporting individuals like Corey, make a contribution today.

Finally Belonging

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.

Meet Marie Anne

Marie Anne is a 67 year old immigrant from Haiti. She came to the United States in September of 2007 to reunite with her daughter. In 2013, she came to Tacoma Community House seeking services from our immigration department. She was thrilled to learn we offered immigration assistance that included free citizenship classes and assistance with immigration paperwork. Marie Anne was also delighted to learn she could receive all of these services in one place.

Marie Anne took her first step towards becoming a naturalized citizen by enrolling in our citizenship classes in October of 2013. During the course of her time at TCH, Marie Anne accumulated 180 hours of instruction. Her teacher shared she had perfect attendance in all four quarters and during her entire enrollment only missed one.

In March of 2014, Marie Anne was ready to submit her application to become a U.S. citizen. She met with an Immigration Specialist at TCH to help her fill out her application in April. After submitting the application, the Naturalization interview followed on November 4. Marie Anne’s citizenship class was excited and anxious to hear how the interview process went. To everyone’s delight Marie Anne came back to her class after the interview and proudly showed everyone her Citizenship Certificate!

Interested in helping aspiring citizens? Support our immigration program by making a contribution today.

Finding Safety through Client Advocacy

Paulina was born and raised in Peru. An intelligent woman, Paulina flourished in school and became an attorney. Through her work she met her husband, who promised her the world. Excited at the prospect of spending her life with the man she loved, she moved to America to be with him.

Once they arrived in the U.S. they married. Shortly thereafter Paulina’s husband became emotionally and physically abusive. The violence continued even when Paulina was pregnant. When she gave birth to their child, he refused to recognize his daughter. A paternity test was done and the results were positive, but he still did not wish to be in the child’s life. Paulina tried to live with the man she thought she loved, but he wanted nothing to do with her or the baby and threatened to have her deported.

Paulina came to United States with hopes of a prosperous future with her husband, a U.S. citizen. However, her dreams quickly faded when her husband became violent. Paulina lived in constant fear and was a prisoner in her own home. At one point, she was afraid she was going to die and leave her family all alone.

After three years of physical and emotional abuse, Paulina had had enough. She no longer wanted to be afraid. She sought help and was referred to Tacoma Community House. Through the Client Advocacy program, Paulina had help finding housing and received public assistance, immigration services and social security. She thanks her advocate for helping her and her family reach stability and security.

Additionally, with her advocate‘s assistance, she and her family are now permanent residents. Paulina says it was her advocate’s encouragement that gave her the strength she needed to keep moving forward. She never thought she’d get out of the rough spot she was living in, but her determination and tenacity helped pave the way for stability for herself and her family.

Paulina recently completed ESL classes at TCH. She knew learning English is necessary so she can communicate with others, navigate the bus system, understand the culture, and much more. She plans on furthering her education so she can provide for her family. For the brief time she’s been volunteering with the Juvenile Court, Paulina has been recognized for being smart and a quick learner. Her goal is to, once again, work in the court system — this time as a paralegal.

“Tacoma Community House is essential for the community,” Paulina shared. She hopes one day she can pay it forward and give back to the organization that helped her get back on her feet.

Interested in helping women like Paulina? Support our Client Advocacy program by making a contribution today and/or by donating Orca cards or gift cards.

If you are interested in learning more about client advocacy, please contact the Client Advocacy Manager Rocio Chavez de Alvarado.

Meet Jania

Gazing through the windows or walking the halls of Tacoma Community House from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. during the education quarter, you see classrooms filled with eager adult learners trying to improve their English skills or learning American history in order to pass the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) exam to become American citizens. However, during the last 30 minutes of one citizenship class last summer, the room was filled with celebratory noise as Jania, the most recent TCH Immigration Services participant to receive her citizenship, returned to share her experience with her classmates over the quintessential American party foods of pizza, cake and soda (which she provided).

Originally from Guatemala, Jania moved to the United States 19 years ago seeking a better life. Guatemala’s 33 year civil war – a microcosm of the uprisings that took place in Central America between indigenous peoples and conservative regimes – was just coming to an end. Though the first few years in the U.S. were rough, Jania has had a good life as she found a stable job and watched her children excel in school. To symbolize the importance of her journey in the United States, Jania wanted to become a citizen. Upon hearing that permanent residents can apply for citizenship and take classes at no cost, Jania enrolled in Citizenship Classes in January 2014. After 6 months on the road to citizenship – which included filling out applications, taking fingerprints, waiting, familiarizing herself with U.S. history and conversational English, Jania took and passed her citizenship exam with a perfect score!

When asked how it felt to become a citizen, taking a deep breath of relief, she answered “profudamente satisfecha” which from Spanish translates to “profoundly satisfied.” “This has opened doors for me to have a better life for myself and my family.” Jania mentioned that a better life for her meant having the opportunity to vote. She specifically recalled learning about the democratic process in citizenship class and her teacher telling the class, “Your voice matters.”

Janai’s return to the classroom was an added blessing along her journey. She said that she was so filled with happiness, she wanted to share it with others. Most importantly, she felt compelled to return to TCH to give her classmates hope. “I wanted them to know that all that they were going through will not be in vain. I wanted them to know that they will make it,” she added.

Jania reached this milestone along with her daughter Jania Sarai. Last year, Jania Sarai graduated from a national technical college where she specialized in Forensic Science. She hopes to further her education, fulfill her dream of becoming an American citizen and serve in the military.

Jania and her family await the day when her classmates also become U.S. citizens and are ‘profundamente satisfecha!’

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