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Success Stories

Eight Elementary School-Aged Refugee Children Smiling and Holding Up Achievement Award Certificates

Our Services Help Resettling Refugees to Succeed on Their Own

Since 2001, Niles Sisters Development Initiative has helped refugees and immigrants from 18 countries on four continents. Below, recent clients share their success stories in their own words.

Father Flees Nigeria, Overcomes Refugee Discrimination, and Earns Nursing Assistant Certificate

Nile Sisters Development Initiative California nursing assistant (CNA) graduate

Kay S., Resettling from Nigeria
Kay S. came to San Diego from Nigeria in June 2017. Economic instability and political violence had forced him to seek better opportunities in order to support his family. In Nigeria, as a seasoned educator and counselor, Kay taught college-level creative arts and provided career guidance.

The culture shock and discrimination that Kay faced after US arrival deeply affected him. “I suffered physically and emotionally because of the persecution,” he says.

In February 2018, a local training center referred Kay to Nile Sisters Development Initiative ( NSDI ), where he explored his interest in nursing programs. Five months later, Kay successfully completed a 44-day weekend certified nursing assistant ( CNA ) training. He now intends to advance his training in acute nursing while he completes his master’s degree program in strategic leadership.

Mother of Two Completes Accelerated Certified Nursing Assistant Program

Nile Sisters Development Initiative California nursing assistant (CNA) graduate

Haminanot Z., Resettling from Eritrea
Originally from Eritrea, Haimanot endured conflict in her home country before it forced her family to flee to Ethiopia. Haimanot recalls violent encounters with armed government forces that pushed and shoved innocent civilians out of their homes. Children were not immune, and Haimanot witnessed violent acts upon her parents. At the young age of 16, Haimanot sought asylum in the United States. First, she landed in Oakland, California, where she sought to learn English and adjust to the new culture. In 2002, she relocated to San Diego and tried a variety of employment options—including driving a taxi and styling hair—to support her family, including two young boys.

In December 2017, a friend introduced Haimanot to the Nile Sisters Development Initiative ( NSDI ) certified nursing assistant ( CNA ) vocational training program. This accelerated skill-building program seeks to support attempts by refugees, immigrants, and other limited-income populations to achieve gainful employment and self-sufficiency in the healthcare sector. Haimanot enrolled in the 44-day weekend program and ultimately passed the state CNA exam. Her long-term goal is to continue training in the healthcare field. Meanwhile, her youngest son’s autism spectrum disorder diagnosis inspires her to work with children with behavioral health challenges.

With the help of a tutor, Haimanot is receiving professional development assistance to help her prepare for employment in the healthcare sector. Of her experience, Haimanot says it is important to have faith during challenging times. “Challenges push you, and you become stronger. Believe in yourself.”

Nursing Graduate from Nigeria Passes California Certification Exam

Julie O., Resettling from Nigeria
Julie O. came to the United States from Nigeria in August 2015. A local attorney thought she would benefit from and recommended that Julie enroll in the accelerated 22-day CNA (certified nursing assistant) skill-building program that Nile Sisters Development Initiative ( NSDI ) facilitates.

Julie enjoys the nursing profession, has previously worked as a personal care giver, and has completed health care courses in addition to CNA classes. In July 2017, Julie successfully completed her CNA program and passed both portions of California State exam needed to earn her certification. She recently received a CNA job offer.

Nursing Graduate from Sudan Passes California Certification Exam

Suzy L., Resettling from Sudan
Born in Sudan (present-day South Sudan), Suzy L. experienced hardships in her native country. Desiring more security to be happy and comfortable, sentiments she never achieved in her homeland, Suzy fled her war-torn country. On her journey to the United States, Suzy faced many financial and cultural challenges, but she was patient and worked hard to overcome the barriers.

Suzy contacted NSDI (Nile Sisters Development Initiative) and registered to participate in the CNA (certified nursing assistant) vocational training program. After completing the intensive 22-day course, Suzy passed the state exams and obtained employment at a hospital in the Sharp HealthCare system. Suzy hopes to progress in the healthcare industry and one day become an LVN (licensed vocational nurse). Her advice to others in similar situations is to always work hard, never give up, but be patient. Suzy hopes to visit South Sudan where her family still lives, but only after the current situation in the country de-escalates.

Wife and Mother of Two Earns Certified Nursing Assistant License

Nile Sisters Development Initiative California nursing assistant (CNA) graduate

Pramoda S., Resettling from Nepal
In 2014, Pramoda S., her husband, and two sons moved to the US from Nepal in order to take advantage of better opportunities. In the beginning, Pramoda experienced difficulties in navigating new systems due to limited knowledge of American customs. In Nepal, Pramoda had been a banker, but in the US, she struggled to understand diverse spoken accents of people she encountered. She didn’t know where to begin to apply for a job or to seek education or skill-training.

Despite the challenges, Pramoda was intent on education to enable upward mobility. She found the San Diego Continuing Education Mid-City Campus and enrolled in the vocational English as a second language (VESL) program. After Pramoda indicated her interest in pursuing a career in the healthcare sector, an instructor introduced Pramoda to Nile Sisters. Pramoda enrolled in Nile Sisters 44-day certified nursing assistant (CNA) evening-class program while she maintained a part-time day job. Since completing the training, Pramoda has passed the California CNA certification exam.

Her advice to people in similar circumstances is that “learning never ends.” She encourages others to pursue education and keep learning something new to diversify their job prospects.

Self-Supporting Mother Earns Certified Nursing Assistant License

Nile Sisters Development Initiative California nursing assistant (CNA) graduate

Jercol X., Resettling from Rwanda
Growing up, Jercol X. and her family were persecuted for their Rwandan roots. They sought refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo for twelve years before resettling as refugees in the United States. Although resettlement and adopting the American way of life were initially difficult, Jercol continued to persevere through school and build a new life for herself, mother, brother, and fourteen-year-old son.

Jercol recently completed Nile Sisters California certified nursing assistant (CNA) vocational training. She will be entering the healthcare industry as a CNA, but Jercol insists this is only the first step for her. She plans to continue her education to become a registered nurse. Proven to be a strong and positive inspiration to others, Jercol advises future program participants to never be discouraged, even during hardships. “Every experience is a learning opportunity for personal growth and wisdom.”

Young Man Earns California Driver’s License

Nile Sisters Development Initiative California Driver's License Graduate

Raha K., Resettling from Democratic Republic of Congo
Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Raha was a student who was unable to finish his studies because his family abruptly fled the country, fearing for their lives. As a young child, Raha was unaware of the tumultuous nature of the move, but he recalls their long stay in a refugee camp in Uganda. In 2014, Raha and his family arrived in the US as refugees.

He quickly enrolled in the Nile Sisters California driver’s license training program to receive help in preparing for the license exams and obtaining his driver’s license. He successfully completed the training and has since secured a full-time job. Raha intends to work hard and own his own home one day. He maintains that he has had a good experience in the US and advises people in similar situations to work hard for their American dream.

Woman Earns California Certified Nursing Assistant License

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Channary H., Resettling from Cambodia
Born in the Southeast Asia nation of Cambodia, Channary grew up witnessing chronic poverty and dreamt of escaping her country in hopes of building a better life. In 2011, Channary migrated to the United States in search of opportunities. Since her arrival in the US, Channary has pursued education in order to obtain the skills necessary to thrive in a new environment.

Her first task was to learn English. She enrolled in an adult English as a Second Language (ESL) program to build her language skills. Thereafter, she sought Nile Sisters certified nursing assistant (CNA) asset-building program to develop skills for employment in healthcare. Having completed the CNA training program, Channary hopes to help other poverty-stricken populations both in the US and abroad.

Father Earns California Family Child-Care Home License

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Francois K., Resettling from the Democratic Republic of Congo
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Francois, his wife, and two young children were forced to flee their home and seek safety in Uganda, where they spent four years in a refugee camp. During their escape, Francois and his two older children were separated and have not had contact over the years since their daring escape. In his homeland, Francois was a pastor with a degree in theology. He had wanted to use his voice to highlight the abuses that he witnessed, but, instead, his family was targeted and persecuted for opposing the atrocities committed by military forces.

After a long and harrowing journey, Francois and his family arrived in the United States in 2014. Shortly after their arrival, Francois was introduced to Nile Sisters. He chose to enroll in the California family child-care home license vocational training in order to establish his own childcare business. Francois and his family are still learning to adjust to their life in the US, but having the child care license gives Francois freedom to generate his own income to support his family.

Father Earns California Driver’s License

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Po Cho, Resettling from Burma
Before resettling in San Diego, Po Cho lived in a refugee camp in Thailand with his wife and two children. Both Po Cho and his wife were teachers of multiple subjects and continued to utilize their teaching skills at the camp.

Maintaining his love for education and skill development after relocating to San Diego, Po enrolled in Nile Sisters California driver’s license training program. Despite having limited English proficiency, he excelled in class and quickly obtained his learner’s permit in order to take advantage of behind-the-wheel training. Not only did he pass the California motor vehicles exam, he also purchased his first car!

Mother of Five Generates Income as a California Certified Nursing Assistant

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Erika Vargas, Resettling from Unknown
Erika Vargas is a mother to five young children. Although she always wanted to work in the healthcare sector, it was difficult for her to continue her education after she dropped out of high school before the birth of her first child. She says, “Before learning about Nile Sisters, I always wanted to work in healthcare, but I did not have the resources to pursue that career path.”

Erika was referred to Nile Sisters by a friend who was familiar with Nile Sisters Back to Back (B2B) skill development program. Through B2B, Nile Sisters works in partnership with local providers, including International Health Group, School of Nursing», to promote employment and asset-building opportunities for underserved women. Generous program investment by Women Give San Diego» allowed Nile Sisters to extend B2B employment pathways to non-refugee women in the San Diego region.

Previously, Erika and her family depended upon only her husband’s income. After passing both the didactic and practical experience portions of the California Nursing Assistant (CNA) exam, Erika greatly improved her employment outlook. She elaborates, “Now after completing the CNA program with Nile Sisters, I will be able to provide for my family as well as further my career in health care. I have already been offered two CNA jobs and one of them is paying $16 per hour.

Now I can continue with my ultimate goal of becoming a registered nurse. I am very thankful to Nile Sisters for everything they have done for me.”

Single Parent Survives Kidnapping and Torture Then Begins Anew

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Adopt-a-Family recipient

Rosalinda Noguis, Resettling from Mexico
Originally from Guerrero, Mexico, Rosalinda fled escalating violence in her home town in order to build a better life in the US. “I was picked up, kidnapped, and tortured by armed men,” Rosalinda recounts her traumatic experience. Some of her extended family members also fled Mexico after her cousin was killed. Fueled by fear, Rosalinda and her four children left everything behind and headed north. “I walked for three days to Tijuana, and I worried especially about the children,” she said. “But I reassured them that I was here for them, and that they didn’t have to worry.”

Upon their arrival, Rosalinda and her children were booked into a detention center at the US border. Rosalinda recalls the terrible conditions at the detention facility, yet she also remembers a sense of relief in escaping the horrific violence and lack of security in Guerrero.

Her family has faced many difficulties in trying to rebuild their lives in the US. Rosalinda explains that she was not able to work, and, therefore, has had to rely upon community-based organizations for basic needs, including food.

In December 2015, another community partner referred Rosalinda to Nile Sisters Development Initiative. Rosalinda’s family became recipients of the Nile Sisters annual Adopt-a-Family outreach, which aims to ease economic hardships for refugee and immigrant families at year’s end. Rosalinda’s “adoptive” family made great strides in helping Rosalinda and her children to adjust to their new lives, and the two families have forged a mutual friendship through the process. Adopt-a-Family gifts included warm outerwear for the whole household, school backpacks, and clothes for the children’s return to school classrooms.

In the face of daily challenges, Rosalinda remains grateful. She hopes her children will continue to succeed. “My 15-year-old daughter studied English and is doing very well in her classes. And the younger children are quickly learning the new language, too.” Rosalinda has expressed interest in becoming a certified nursing assistant as she has prior experience in the Mexican healthcare system.

“I have a passion for cooking, and ideally, I would like to do something with that, but I also want to work in health and be able to provide a better life for my family here.“

Devastating Earthquake Leads to Safe Asylum and a Blossoming Career

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Fabine Francois, Resettling from Haiti
Fabine left Haiti in 2010 after a disastrous earthquake ravaged her hometown of Port-au-Prince, killing her sister and destroying her family’s livelihood. The earthquake tragically impacted Haiti’s education infrastructure and forced Fabine from school just before she completed her undergraduate degree in business administration.

Fabine and her family relocated to Navajoa Sonora, Mexico, where they lived for some time before seeking asylum in the United States. While in Mexico, Fabine resumed university coursework while holding parttime jobs as a waitress, a cook, and a cashier. Low wages, limited hours, and rigorous class schedules made it difficult for Fabine to establish a productive and fulfilling lifestyle. She sought and received asylum in San Diego, where she quickly acclimatized to a new culture.“I feel good here.”

Fabine found Nile Sisters Development Initiative in 2014 and completed a rigorous orientation and selection process before enrolling in the Back to Back (B2B) skill development and employment facilitation program to train as a California Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). She excelled in the program, passed the state exams, and has secured employment as a CNA in the healthcare sector. Fabine joins a growing network of resettled refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants whose skills and income have benefited from the B2B program.

Fabine credits her mother as inspiration.”My mother made sure all nine of her children attended school. Nile Sisters is big part of this success. Not only did they send me to school, they encouraged me to stay motivated even after I did not pass the CNA exam the first time. I learned about patience.” Fabine advises other newly resettling refugees and immigrants aspiring to achieve their own career goals to not give up.”Try again and again to achieve your goals. They will happen.”

Fabine’s ultimate goal is to become a registered nurse. “Nursing is a good career because I will get to help people and potentially save lives, too.”

Licensed Childcare Provider Frees Burmese Parents for Skills Training

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Mu Dah, Resettling from Burma
As a member of the Karen ethnic group in Burma (Myanmar), Mu Dah was terrified for her safety and that of her family. Karen villagers in the Burmese mountains experienced death threats, had limited access to schools and jobs, and suffered from discrimination and poverty.

The family decided to risk an escape to the jungle. After ten years as camp residents, Mu Dah, her husband, and their five children received screening by the US Department of Homeland Security, US Department of Justice, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

In 2010, the family arrived in the United States and resettled in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Mu Dah’s greatest challenges in adjusting to her new life are learning the English language and using new technology, such as kitchen appliances. Mastering the local transportation system also required coaching.

After learning about Nile Sisters Development Initiative, Mu Dah and her family discovered that they qualified for food assistance and social services. Determined to excel in her new home, Mu Dah enrolled in the Back to Back (B2B) skill development project, a Nile Sisters employment facilitation program. Mu Dah’s training resulted in a license to provide home-based child care.

Nile Sisters developed B2B in 2012 as a response to the need for economic opportunity and self-sufficiency among refugees in the San Diego region. Funded by Women Give San Diego and other partners, B2B offers vocational training to refugee and immigrant populations.

After completing her training, Mu Dah established her own business to provide culturally sensitive home-based child care services to Burmese refugee children, freeing their parents to seek opportunities to become self-sufficient, including attending school and skill-training programs.

In 2015, the National University annual Holiday Cheer event chose Mu Dah’s family as recipients of a variety of essential household items and a desktop computer. Read the story.»

Burma suffered terribly from the government oppression and total control over the people. Mu Dah welcomes the freedoms offered in the United States and no longer fears government reprisals. She believes that “freedom should be for everyone” and that Burmese laws should change to grant persecuted people the right to leave the country.

CNA Vocational Training Lifts a Mother to Self-Sufficiency

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Adenike Odumane, Resettling from Nigeria
Adenike and her children escaped their home country and arrived in the United States in October 2014 after her husband’s family had targeted Adenike’s twelve-year-old daughter for female genital mutilation (FGM) and threatened Adenike’s family with harm if they failed to comply. To protect her daughter, Adenike chose to abandon her own business and comfortable Nigerian life to embark upon a treacherous journey to the United States, where she ultimately sought family asylum.

In Nigeria, Adenike had earned her bachelor’s degree in educational management. For several years, she worked for a national bank and also ran her own distribution business. Upon arriving in San Diego as a newly single parent, Adenike had to rely upon public assistance, but she was determined to better her life and more adequately provide for her children.

After a colleague recommended that Adenike learn about Nile Sisters California certified nursing assistant (CNA) vocational training, Adenike visited the office and enrolled in the 22-day program. On her first attempts, she passed both the didactic and practice portions of the licensing exams. She also enrolled in Nile Sisters driver’s license training and obtained her California driver’s license. Nile Sisters employment facilitation programs also helped Adenike to craft a powerful résumé and strengthen her interviewing skills, which led to her new career at a health center in San Diego.

Family Child-Care Home License Will Enable a Family-Operated Business

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Sail Tun Tun, Resettling from Burma
“I came from Burma to the United States with my wife and my daughter in 2012 because the politics are bad in Burma. They can torture you if you say something. Before I came to the United States, I hoped for everything to be fine. But things are totally different. For me, the language is difficult; working and living is very expensive.

I came to Nile Sisters with my friend. Nile Sisters is helping me and my wife to get a family child-care home license so that we can start working on our own business. Nile Sisters is great because they are so nice.”

Family Child-Care Home License Satisfies a Self-Employment Dream

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Natsinet Tesfamariam, Resettling from Egypt
“I have been in San Diego, California, for three years and eight months. I came with my husband from Egypt because my husband had a kidney failure. He received a transplant in Cairo, Egypt, but due to medication expenses and religious unrest in our home country of Eritrea, we were granted refugee status in the United States.

After we got here, everything was new . . . the culture, the language—everything was new. I never expected to leave home so suddenly. Now I had to get a job and find a place with my husband to live. During the first year, the government assisted us with my husband’s medical expenses, and then, for the past two years and eight months, the company that makes the meds enrolled him in an annual special-patient assistance program in order to afford the meds. Meanwhile, I have had to work to take care of our household, but it has not been easy. I still had my own aspirations and dreams.

Through a friend, I heard about Nile Sisters, the organization that helped me fulfill one of my dreams—to be a childcare provider. Nile Sisters helped pay the expenses it takes to train for and obtain a family child-care home license. The process was long, and the paperwork was plenty. But Nancy took care of everything for me. Every time I was confused, I would call Nancy and she would take care of it for me. I was still working as a food-service worker while having to fulfill this goal of mine. I never knew that it would be possible to complete this dream, but Nile Sisters made it possible.

Now I have my license, and I can really start my own business in childcare. I am advertising with my own business cards and drawing up a contract for use with my own clients.

I thank Nile Sisters for that. I feel inspired and accomplished. I am more confident and excited to move to the next level in my dreams.”

CNA Vocational Training Helps Secure Two Jobs in Nursing

Nile Sisters Development Initiative Vocational Training Graduate

Ayobami Akinsola, Resettling from Nigeria
“I heard about Nile Sisters at the Pentecostal church I attend. Ms. Elizabeth came through with flyers to announce the programs her organization offers, and that’s how I met her. She explained the programs to me, and I immediately knew I could use her help. I visited Nile Sisters the next day. I needed help finding a job because that was one of my challenges here in the United States when I arrived. I had no training or experience in anything, so finding a job was difficult.

At the Nile Sisters headquarters, I heard of the CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) training and became interested due to the fact that I have a passion to work in the health field. Unfortunately, at the time I enrolled in the CNA program, Nile Sisters had very little funding to get me through the classes. I sat down with the refugee advocate who talked me through other possibilities to gain experience and income while I waited for the next opportunity to take the class. I was very desperate at the time, and while I listened to her advice and accepted the resources she gave me, I was determined to take the course as soon as possible. I believe my will to take the course touched them, and they ended up paying for the second half of my tuition. Honestly, they were my life saver because I didn’t know how I could come up with the second half of the tuition by the due date.

I faced so many challenges during the course. I didn’t have a solid place to stay, and I was trying to maintain a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant to make ends meet. Nile Sisters gave me bus tokens, but the public system took so much of my time. Again Nile Sisters kept offering me tutoring services, but I couldn’t make it at the time it was available. I remember being tired some times in class because I was getting up at 4:00 in the morning to get the bus to be in school in time. And then I had to make time to study.

But toward the end of the course, I made some friends that, at times, offered me rides home. I also had study groups that helped me prepare during test time. But I only passed half of the test. I was going back to take the second part when my legal status expired. It took me some time to work things out, and so I had to find a full-time job so that I could afford my place of stay.

All the support from Nile Sisters has been a good influence in my life. They were always concerned about me, they always called me to check on me and see if they could help me. Nile Sisters means so much to me. Even though I have not taken the CNA state test, I’ve been able to obtain a job with my certificate of completion. I now have two jobs in that field, and all this has been possible with the help of the Nile Sisters program.”

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