Staff Feature: Synthia Barry

Meet Synthia Barry, Match Grant Specialist, World Relief Spokane

My name is Synthia Barry. I am from Burkina Faso located in West Africa. I was born and raised in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. I have four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. I have lived in Spokane for about three years, and I live with my husband who is also from Burkina Faso. I moved to the U.S. in 2010 right after I graduated from high school. My brother was already living in Seattle at the time.

I speak French plus two other dialects from my country. As most of our refugee clients, I didn’t have
img_4158much English upon arrival. I started as a level three, taking English classes for about a year or so. After ESL, I started college right away at North Seattle Community College. Two years later, I graduated with an Associate Degree in Business Administration. After graduation, I was immediately accepted at Eastern Washington University, then moved to Spokane. It has now been three years since I moved to Spokane, and last June I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Business Operations Management.

I always like to keep myself busy, and I am always up for learning new things. For instance, while I was taking English classes, I was also volunteering in a nursing home, spending time with the elderly. A few months later, I got certified and worked for two years as a certified nurse assistant while also completing community college. Once in Spokane, I had to focus on my bachelor’s degree.

I got a job as a community manager, managing an 18-unit apartment for three years now. I have plans to go back to school and complete my MBA, but for now I enjoy working with World Relief. Working there is a blessing for me. I have always been a big fan of diversity and working with people in poverty, helping and empowering people to help themselves. I believe I got that heart from my mom who is a social worker. She works for one of our children hospitals back home. I remember volunteering with her each time I was on school break. I was helping with small tasks, such as food distribution, recording donations, distribution of toys, and sometimes babysitting. Actually, working with our refugees reminds me a little of that time.

Working as a caseworker is a significant task, but it is also very rewarding. Refugees come to America with so many different experiences, after being forced to flee for their lives. I am a Match Grant specialist, working with both case management and job development. Our main goal is to make our clients self-sufficient and not rely on the government money. My job can be very intense and overwhelming, but so rewarding. We see life changing moves and our brave refugees are successfully rebuilding their lives in the U.S.

I love telling people I have the best job ever, which is to help our refugees start their new life in America. I am also proud to say that I have made amazing friends among them. They invite me to their house, share their food with me, read me words in their language, tell me about their culture, and I do the same. They have become family to not only me, but also to all these people who let them touch their heart. I love America so much. We have people from so many different backgrounds. Let’s all appreciate each other, learn from each other, and most of all love each other.

Staff Feature: Ude Mbolekwa

img_2125Meet Ude Mbolekwa, LEP Job Developer, World Relief Spokane

I was born in South Africa, I am South African. At the age of four I moved to Mozambique and that’s where I grew up as a missionary kid. We moved there in 1996 and my mom became a missionary full time in 1999 working with World Relief. So ever since a young kid I was involved with World Relief, but it was a different mission then because they were working with locals in the community and my mom worked mostly with children. They would do clubs every week, meeting with the kids and doing bible lessons. So I stayed in Mozambique for 13 to 14 years and I did all my schooling there. In 2012, I came to the States to pursue my intercultural degree from Moody. When I found out there was a World Relief here in Spokane it wasn’t hard for me to get connected with it because I had been involved with World Relief pretty much my whole life. I started volunteering here at World Relief spring semester of 2013. I worked with families just kind of helping them get acclimated here to Spokane, helping them with English and with the kids. I did that for pretty much my whole 4 years at Moody, and then my last 2 years I helped with teaching the citizenship class. That was pretty much my involvement initially. I graduated in May 2016 and then I had to do an internship to complete my requirements for my bachelors. World Relief was one of my options for the internship, so I interned with the employment department and then at the end of the internship a job position opened up and that just flowed. It worked out very well.

My favorite part of my job is everything essentially. Getting to meet all the people that I’m working with or helping with employment. For me I just feel like it’s a small small small part of helping the refugees when they come here. My favorite part would be seeing that whole process come together and them finally having a stable job, hopefully, by the end of it. The hardest part of the job is seeing needs with the refugees that cannot be met at the time, like for example with jobs. I know that a refugee needs a job as soon as possible, but then I know that this refugee has barriers that need to be taken care. Maybe English is a big barrier, or the skills that they need to get a job is a big barrier and then it is hard to find a placement for them because of those barriers. So that is something difficult to try and work through, just balancing out that they need a job but they cannot yet get a job because of those barriers. So it’s been hard to try and navigate through those waters.

Behind my heart for working for refugees is that I have a strong strong strong desire for people to offer belonging since I grew up in a different culture in Mozambique. I was still South African at heart, so I knew my identity. One of the things that drew me to start working with refugees was that you have these people who all of the sudden were told to leave their country, to pack up your clothes and just leave, and then at the end of the day you pretty much don’t belong anywhere. They live in camps, some of them live their whole lives in camps, and they essentially don’t have an identity. Like they don’t belong to anybody or to any country. So helping them even when they come here to the States, just with employment or helping them get started with their life again is a beautiful thing for me. Essentially, after five years they become American citizens, and they can finally belong to a community again and be Americans or whatever country they are in that they are restarting at. For me that’s something that I would like people to know about refugees, that they are also people and they should belong somewhere as well, not just in limbo, in refugee camps, in between countries trying to find a place to belong.

My passion, while having grown up as a missionary kid, is just helping people who are vulnerable or don’t have the means to help themselves. I wanted to work with orphans and widows back in East Africa because those are pretty much a marginalized group of people who people don’t want to work with or they don’t have many resources. Just helping those in need and who don’t have that many resources or connections to get the help that they need. I guess that would be encompassing, including my passion with helping them find their identity or a place to belong and helping people get back on their feet.


Staff Feature: Saw Gary

Meet Saw Gary, Resettlement Specialist, World Relief Spokane: IMG_3029
I was born in Burma with eight brothers and sisters. When I was twelve years old we fled to Thailand to seek asylum. We didn’t make it to a camp, but instead lived on the border of Burma and Thailand in a small village. We were not considered Thai so we didn’t receive the same help that other asylum seekers in the area were getting. If you make it into a Thai camp you get daily amenities like food, water and shelter, but in the village where we stayed it was difficult to provide for everyone. We had nowhere to go. If we went back to Burma we would be killed. My brother and I traveled to Bangkok where we eventually received asylum status. I was just sixteen at the time. Traveling a great distance with nowhere to stay and my safety at risk was scary. It was possible for us to get arrested at any time and deported back to Burma. We ended up staying at a church that helped us throughout our time in Bangkok. We were resettled to Minneapolis, where I graduated high school and eventually found a job. I was eager to do something with refugees and with language. I speak seven languages, which helped me find a job at World Relief Minneapolis as an employment specialist. After some time working there, I got married and moved to Spokane, where I again began working for World Relief.
I really enjoy the job because at one point I was in their position. It’s hard, but I can encourage them that they’ll get there eventually. I am a refugee, so giving back and helping other refugees is the best thing I can do. Sometimes people get distracted by the things they see on the news, but it’s so important to get to know refugees personally, connect with them and hear their stories. Their stories touch so many. When someone relocates to a new place it’s hard in the beginning, but finally that person is safe. They have a car and a job and they can stand on their own. It is amazing to see and be a part of.

A Narrow Escape & A New Start


Meet Idris…

A self-described “tech guy,” it’s clear from the moment you meet Idris that he loves everything computer-related. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and he put his passion and education to use for over ten years serving the U.S. government in his home country of Afghanistan.

Reign of Terror

Idris and his wife, Frozan, remember the good years in Afghanistan – the years before the fighting broke out, before landmines littered the picturesque mountains, before the reign of terror began. In 2008 Idris watched as his father was shot and killed by Taliban fighters. His only crime – that his son was employed by the American government. Though Idris was in the car with his father, the Taliban did not recognize him and his life was spared that day. In the coming years, though, Idris and his entire family were targeted. He received threatening calls and menacing notes on the door of his home. On a Friday in 2014 Idris was enjoying a day at the park with his friends. His cell phone rang. When he answered, a voice on the other end told him he could see the blue kite Idris was flying at that moment. He knew he was being watched and time was running out. Fearing for his life, Idris applied for a Special Immigrant Visa, a travel permit awarded to Afghans and Iraqis whose lives have been threatened as a result of their service to the U.S. government. Six months later, Idris and Frozan were on a plane to a place they had never heard of before: Spokane, Washington.

A New Start

Idris and Frozan had no idea what to expect. They had visas permitting them to live in the U.S. and less than a month’s worth of money in their pockets. They assumed they were now on their own in a new country, and Idris wondered how they would manage. To their surprise, they were met in the Spokane airport by a smiling woman who received them with a welcoming embrace. It was Lyndsie, their World Relief case manager. Idris was beyond relieved – here were people to help him and his wife. They joined the Match Grant program and Idris told his job developer, “I don’t care that I have a bachelor’s degree. I don’t care that I have ten years IT experience. I will work in a hotel. I will work in a shop. I will do anything. This is the start of my new life.” IMG_2712

Today, Idris and Frozan are the proud parents of a beautiful little boy named Mustafa. He is the first American citizen in their family. Frozan is caring for Mustafa and continuing to learn English. She hopes to one day attend nursing school. Two weeks after their arrival Idris began a job in a call center. The job was difficult and many new hires left after the six-week training. Idris remained at the call center for seven months before applying for a position with Apple. After a demanding interview process, Idris was hired. He is now an Apple Genius! He is deeply valued by his manager and coworkers. He has loyal customers who occasionally stop in just to say hello. And Idris is once again doing what he loves!

Staff Feature: Lanette Pieterse

IMG_1409 Lanette_4Meet Lanette Pieterse, Employment Specialist, World Relief Spokane:

I was born and raised in South Africa. In 2009 I moved to Vietnam to teach English. There I met my husband, an American, who was also teaching. I lived in Vietnam for about a year and a half and during that time we got engaged. My husband’s parents moved to Spokane, and shortly after we moved here also. It was a harder adjustment to America than I had thought. I imagined it would be like the movies, so it took me by surprise when the small differences added up. Simple things like personal space and the sense of humor made the move more difficult. My sense of purpose and my life with my husband helped me feel comfortable here.

I began job searching in Spokane but I really struggled to find a job I enjoyed. I worked freelance jobs for about a year until I came to World Relief in June 2014. In my job, I work for a federally funded pilot. The program deals with life skills, personal strength building, stress management, health and well-being and how to communicate effectively. It is designed to create long-term success for many different groups of people. We all work here because we want to see refugees be successful and self-sufficient, and that is the driving force for why I do what I do. One of my favorite stories in this job is of a father who was placed as a volunteer at Goodwill. He had a prosthetic arm and spoke very little English, but to him these were no barriers to success. He was eager to start working even if it meant not getting paid. The managers were so impressed with him they ended up hiring him full time!

I think many people don’t realize how normal refugees are in the sense that they want to be successful and they want to be happy. They are as complex and individual as anyone else you meet. My hope is that people view refugees for more than the tragic story that they may have walked though. At the end of the day they are just people desiring a new start.

Staff Feature: Haitham Dawoud

This is the second installation of a series featuring the talented and diverse staff of World Relief Spokane.

Meet Haitham Dawoud, Finance Manager, World Relief Spokane:

IMG_0882-2“I lived my childhood in Kuwait and returned to Iraq when Kuwait was invaded in 1991. In Kuwait, I attended an American school and grew up speaking English and Arabic all of my life. In Iraq I was threatened and shot at so I didn’t stay. In 2003 when Iraq was liberated I left to work for an American organization in Guinea, West Africa. During that time my family left to Syria to begin the refugee process so I traveled to Syria for just a few short months to be with them. I did not apply to be a refugee because the program then was not established like it is now. During that time, I was contacted by a previous employer from America and asked if I would be interested in working for an American organization in Madagascar. I began working on getting my masters from an American University in Kenya. It was there that I met my wife, also studying Science of Administration and International Development. Within six months we left to China, got married, moved to America in April 2008, and began working for World Relief Spokane in May 2008. I have been working as the Finance Manager ever since.

“My job has many aspects, the government side and the people side. Some days the funding is stable, and sometimes it’s not. Some people come with expectations, usually high ones, and some do not. Many people face a number of cultural issues when they arrive in America and often times find the adjustment difficult. The other side of it is the community aspect. Some communities are accepting of refugees and some are not. The few that are not, often don’t understand refugee resettlement and what it actually means. It is important to be well communicating to the community and well educating to the community at the same time. When a refugee arrives with a hardworking attitude and motivation, that motivation always leads to excellence.”

Staff Feature: Jackson Lino

This is the first installation of a series featuring the talented and diverse staff of World Relief Spokane.

Meet Jackson Eremugo Lino, Resettlement Specialist, World Relief Spokane:

Jackson 3
“I was born in Sudan in 1988 with 13 brothers and sisters. Four years before my family moved to America we traveled to Cairo, Egypt to begin the refugee process. There, our situation was deemed severe enough to be placed as refugees in America. We moved to Boise, Idaho in 1999 and resettled through World Relief. I was 12 years old when I started school and began really learning English for the first time. At first, it was a lot of learning to adapt. I had to quickly learn how to live in America while still dealing with the trauma I experienced back in Sudan. I can still vividly remember my first cross country race. I lined up with all of the other runners and when the gun went off signaling all of the runners to start I fell down to the ground. I was so traumatized from the sounds and experiences from my past. I thought guns were going off and I was unsafe. Everyone looked over and started asking if I was hurt. They didn’t understand the fear. Refugees come to America with so many different experiences. Today I deal with that by helping people understand what my culture was like, by loving the community around me and by looking forward.”
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“My passion has always been to help people. I am a community type of person. That’s how I feel fulfilled. By loving people and serving people I have purpose. It’s been a blessing to work with World Relief. Refugees want the opportunity to excel, like we all do. Refugees are over-comers – they are strong people who I’ve seen walk through storms most of us can’t imagine. I have lived the life of a refugee, and I take what I experienced into helping all of the refugees I work with here at World Relief. It was hard, and it was a lot of overcoming obstacles. But I always highlight the fact that if I have come this far, so can they.”


Jackson shares a laugh in the World Relief Spokane waiting room.