Aireen Jannual’s story is familiar. Like many of the 40 million-plus immigrants who now call this country home, she came to the U.S. in search of the American Dream. When Aireen left her native Thailand in 2010, she wanted to provide a better life for her young son, support her aging parents, and achieve her ambition to become a registered nurse in an American hospital. What could be a better destination than New York, a city where, so the saying goes, the streets are paved with gold?
“In Thailand I worked as a secretary, and it was not a good life. I could never make enough to support my whole family so my mother and father still had to work,” Aireen says. “When I got pregnant I decided I wanted to come here. Everybody knows that people from other countries come to New York for good money and better jobs. I wanted to make a better future for everyone in my family.”
But, upon arrival, Aireen realized that finding work and adapting to life in a new country can be tough, particularly when you don’t speak fluent English. Far from being paved with gold, the streets were unforgiving and strange.
“For the first 6 months I was lonely and scared. I cried every night. I really missed my family and there were so many times when I wanted to go back to Thailand,” she says. “The most difficult thing was finding a job, and the language barrier. When I speak English, I sound so different. It’s sometimes difficult to express myself and that made it tough to find work.”
When she was referred to AAFE’s Workforce Development Program, Aireen didn’t have any of the basic components of a jobseeker’s toolkit. No resume, no references, and no knowledge of how to conduct herself in an American-style job interview. That’s where the Workforce Development Program stepped in: Inaugurated in 2013, the program provides jobseekers, particularly those from immigrant communities, with training and support.
The program proved successful for Aireen. Shortly after connecting with AAFE counselors, she scored a job as a waitress at an international airport. “The AAFE team helped me prepare my resume and send a cover letter. They were also really nice to me and incredibly supportive, and that gave me the confidence to go out and get a job,” she said.
The dream doesn’t end there for Aireen, though. She’s training to become a nurse, and hopes to achieve her ambition of working in a hospital soon. Her connection with AAFE’s Workforce Development team hasn’t ended either: “Even though I have a job I still stay in touch with them. If I ever have a problem they are always willing to help. I’ll always be grateful to AAFE: I got a good life and a good job because of them.”
To learn more about AAFE’s Workforce Development Program, click here.