They arrived from war-torn countries, their lives full of trauma. Their asylums were rejected, and they spent years on their cases to be granted citizenship and find careers. Life was made difficult to reside in their new countries. Despite having few resources for guidance, these people persevered through their varying struggles to accomplish their goals.
Their advanced degrees did not always put them at ease, as they didn’t easily become accustomed to their new American homes across the globe. Although they reached their education goals thus far, they were not working in their desired fields.
These people attempt to escape hardships, only to find the same scenarios at their new destinations. They struggle to receive stable salaries to consistently provide for their families. In order to make their hopes and dreams match with reality, Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) helped fund the Upwardly Global (UpGlo) project.
A national nonprofit started in 2000 and in Chicago since 2009, UpGlo ensures that refugees, asylees and immigrants receive the aid they need, keeping them on their toes within all professional aspects. From interviews to building resumes, UpGlo shines light on these individuals’ futures, leading them out into successful careers by preparing them for interviews, employment and business communication.
“My story has been rewritten by UpGlo. They believed in my potential, built upon my skills and saved me months of struggle,” said Ahmad, a Syrian refugee who currently resides in Illinois. “Today, I am delightfully contributing to the local economy as a professional, paying my taxes and feeling secure for the first time in many years.”
ZF joined in supporting Upwardly Global after researching their life-changing projects. After a year of sponsorship, ZF and Upwardly Global met and exceeded enrollment goal numbers, with some doubling or even tripling.
The goal in the July-August grant period was to train 350 individuals and place 180. ZF and Upwardly Global were able to train 443 individuals and place 229 in jobs. ZF was able to help Upwardly Global support nearly 100 job seekers in the U.S. Central region in this grant period alone.
More than $50,000 in scholarships are available to help beneficiaries receive industry-accredited training. This is meant to target those who have experience gaps and might require a certification or other form of training course to fill the gap and become fully eligible for the job they seek.
The highest number of beneficiaries from a single country come from Iraq. They have 52 men and 48 women with a focus on STEM careers, 60 percent of whom are placed in engineering. They are also work authorized, meaning they do not require sponsorship.
In only a five-month span, from April to August, nearly 170 immigrants were trained and became skilled professionals, nearly doubling the target number of about 90, per an UpGlo report. So far, 75 of these professionals actually began their careers. Of the proposed goal of 20 dependent children to benefit from this goal, nearly 50 have. Three months after placement, the members were surveyed, with a positive response of 93 percent still being employed.
Aynur said she struggled with her English skills as recently as a year ago. Her confidence was low, and she considered quitting UpGlo. Her mentor kept reassuring her that she will be successful with time – and she was. After UpGlo’s help, Aynur was hired as a software engineer for Life Fitness with a benefitted salary that comfortably provides for her and her child.
“UpGlo has the solution to every barrier skilled immigrants face in the U.S.,” Aynur said. “They enrolled me in a great ESL [English as a Secondary Language] program (Education First), where i had the chance the chance to further practice and improve my english skills.”
Aynur is one of the many candidates who have benefitted from UpGlo’s help. ZF plans to continue its projects with more organizations like UpGlo, providing help to overachieving future leaders of their respective industries.
“I used to think twice or more before saying anything. Now, I feel confident about my speaking skills,” Aynur said. “So I started my job search again, and I managed to get a job in my first in-person interview.”