If you ever need to find Adaga, look for the beaming smile.
“I just try to stay positive,” she says. “Other people’s smiles helped me when life was hard, so I try to do the same thing for them.”
Adaga is a former refugee from Eritrea, a small African nation which officially became its own country in 1997. It has no legislative elections and one of the worst human rights records in the world. In 2006, when Adaga’s family fled the nation for fear of their safety, Eritrea was known for intimidating its population as well as suppressing and persecuting religious minorities, including members of some Christian denominations. Adaga was seven when the family had to flee, so she doesn’t remember exactly why they left, just the journey away from her extended family and into a new country.
The family fled to Ethiopia, where they applied for refugee status. In late 2008, Adaga and her father, mother, and three brothers were cleared to resettle in Spokane. They were greeted at the airport by their World Relief case manager, who was a former refugee from Eritrea as well.
“It was exciting because everything was new, but it was hard to not know much about America. We didn’t speak the language or eat the same food.”
Adaga found ways to overcome the difficulties of living in a new city over the next several years in Spokane. Her family helped. “They were always there for me. After I had hard days at school, I knew they would understand when I got home.”
“I love my family.”
One of the challenges the family of six faced together was learning English. “At first, I couldn’t really talk to anyone. I had to keep my mouth shut,” Adaga said. “It was hard.” Still, she found silver linings in those difficult moments. “At school, everyone was so nice, even when I didn’t understand what they were saying.”
Now, as a result of her hard work and the kindness of people around her, it’s nearly impossible to tell that Adaga wasn’t born in Spokane. Her English is nearly perfect. True to form, she credited her teachers and family for that success.
When her time in the public school system came to an end, Adaga started looking for a job so she could contribute to her family and community’s success. Her mother suggested that she go back to World Relief Spokane.
Employment Specialist Brian Olson helped Adaga search for a job. It took a couple of weeks to find the right fit, but they kept at it.
“Brian was awesome,” Adaga said. “He helped me with everything.”
The pair found a job at a senior care community in Spokane where Adaga now has the opportunity to give back to the community that welcomed her eight years ago. She works the night shift and completed a 75-hour training that took about three weeks. “Working at night was kind of hard at first, but I got used to it. I like it now. I get to work and help other people.”
Andrew Goodwin, World Relief Spokane’s Digital Communications Assistant, wrote this story.