Zin Thant, a refugee from Burma, faced a tough challenge when she resettled in San Diego: She wanted a job but also sought to spend time with her young children. To make matters more challenging, she wasn’t fluent in English. The Nile Sisters Development Initiative came to her rescue.

Nile Sisters helps refugees, immigrants, and asylees get on their two feet after the government stops giving them aid, months after they arrive in the U.S. The door at Nile Sisters is always open for refugees looking to improve their English, find a job, get preventative health information, and receive basic assistance (help with understanding their bills, applying for SDG&E energy discount program (CARE), and other services).

A close friend of Thant’s recommended she use Nile Sisters to connect her to vocational training classes that would allow her to set up a home daycare business, as a certified family childcare provider.

Ma Nu, a Buremse refugee, learns how to give CPR during her childcare training. Now, she takes care of four kids at her own home daycare. From time to time she watches kids so that their mothers can get their in-home childcare certification too.
Ma Nu, a Buremse refugee, learns how to perform CPR during her childcare training.

Nile Sisters helped Thant every step of the way. They referred her to a local agency for training and covered the cost, provided the necessary documents for her home inspection (a requirement for a home daycare business), and followed up with her and cheered her on throughout the process until she received her license as a certified family childcare provider. They even provided an interpreter to help her during the training.

Last month, Thant had a baby. Right now, she’s going to focus on taking care of her newborn. In six months, Thant plans on continuing to pursue more clients for her home daycare business.

Thant still has a strong relationship with Nile Sisters and plans to use their help when she renews her license.

Through its programs, Nile Sisters believes it’s fulfilling a “hand up and not a hand out” approach to making their constituents self-reliant, by providing programs that allow them to learn new skills and obtain profitable jobs.

“We are giving refugees the foundation,” Nile Sisters refugee advocate Nancy Martey said. “Now they can use that to build on their success and move on to become independent in the U.S.”

Gary Nicoleau, Haiti native and father of three, is another example of how Nile Sisters is helping create strong foundations for ambitious newcomers. Nicoleau was working for $9.25 an hour at a hotel and began having back problems

“The doctor told me I had to quit my job because it’s going to hurt my back,” Nicoleau said.

This worried him because he had to find another way to provide for his family. Another local organization told him about the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program at Nile Sisters and he signed up. The process wasn’t easy. He went through a screening process, an information session, interview and English comprehension test to ensure that he understood enough English to pass the CNA state exam, and obtain employment in the health care field. As part of the program, he also had to attend a series of workshops that included one-on-one tutoring, financial literacy training, and health education classes.

After the screening process, Nile Sisters assisted him with the application process for nursing school and covered the fees for his textbooks, uniform, test, and training. Thanks to Nile Sisters, he was able to receive his CNA license in 22 days.

Nile Sisters refugee advocate helps Gary Nicoleau prepare for his CNA test.
Nile Sisters refugee advocate Nancy Martey helps Gary Nicoleau prepare for his CNA test.

What does Nicoleau do now? He was offered a position as a nursing assistant at the same location where he did his training. His new job pays $10 an hour and he plans to become licensed as a vocational nurse after he gains experience.

Gary Nicoleau practices his clinical work on Nile Sisters refugee advocate Nancy Martey.
Gary Nicoleau practices his clinical work on Nile Sisters refugee advocate Nancy Martey.

Nile Sisters thrives on the successes of their clients. Martey said the best part of her job is when class members return telling her how their certificates have opened up many new job opportunities. That to her is enough to prove that she’s done her job as an advocate for the communities that Nile Sisters assists.

But her job doesn’t end there. Martey continues to help refugees even after they become certified. She follows up with them and ensures they are on the right track to finding jobs and becoming self-reliant.

“The skill-development program is supposed to allow our constituents to become more confident, get on their own two feet and reclaim their status as a mother, a young adult, a father, a husband or a wife,” Martey said.

How can you make a difference?

Since this program’s genesis, Nile Sisters has connected more than 100 people to vocational training programs in San Diego. Nile Sisters relies on the community to provide essential services to its constituents. Your support allows them to provide basic skills, like the ability to effectively communicate in English in order to provide for their families. The skill-development project helps newcomers assimilate into their communities because this is their new home.

By donating $500 today, you will help fund the following for Nile Sisters employment facilitation programs:
• Books
• Uniforms
• TB tests
• CPR and Preventative Health class certificates
• Fingerprinting tests
• Orientation
• Application fees

If you can’t afford to donate money, you can also volunteer. Nile Sisters relies on volunteers to provide English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring, interpretation/translation, and other administrative duties. More information can be found on their website. You can also call them at 619-265-2959.

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