JFCS makes rebuilding lives possible for refugees in Louisville
An estimated 2,500 refugees arrive in Louisville every year. Jewish Family and Career Services are working to help them rebuild their lives in a new country.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When working with the U.S. Embassy put her life in danger, Noor Abdalmajeed was forced to start over in Louisville.
Now she's working to re-build her life, thanks to the Navigate Enterprise Center at Jewish Family and Career Services.
Abdalmajeed had everything in her native Iraq: her family, a good paying job and a bright future. That all changed when the terrorist group ISIS started threatening her because of her work with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
"They follow me, they put me in a car, they torture me. They put knife over here and here," Abdalmajeed described.
She managed to escape, but knew she was no longer safe. "They destroyed everything. All my dreams. So I leave everything behind me," she said.
Abdalmajeed was able to seek refuge in Louisville, one of about 2,500 refugees who arrive here every year. She was forced to start over with very little.
Unsure about how to start rebuilding her life, a friend pointed her toward Jewish Family and Career Services, one of Louisville's oldest charitable human services organizations. JFCS helped her get a job, and get her bachelor's degree re-credentialed.
"It's a very very scary thing when you have to start from scratch like that, so being able to be that little bit of an anchor to show them that they're not alone, they can get some support and we can help you through this," said Cynthia Brown, director of JFCS' Navigate Enterprise Center.
Navigate is helping Abdalmajeed build her own business: a cellphone store. Once a week, she meets with Mona Dajani, her business adviser.
"She had her business before, she has the expertise needed, she just needs a little bit of support," said Dajani.
They started from scratch by building Abdalmajeed's credit score, which was non-existent in the US. It's a necessity for a business, but is often a barrier for refugees starting over.
"To be able to apply for a credit card, you need a credit score and to have a credit score, you need a credit card, so I think a lot of them are stuck like that," said Dajani.
The two are working on a business plan, marketing strategies and bookkeeping, which are tools needed to build a self-sufficient business, while contributing to the Louisville economy.
"For our economy, all these refugee businesses are amazing. They bring diversity and we're also helping them be self-sufficient," said Dajani.
It's been a year and a half since Abdalmajeed fled from Iraq. She now works as a security guard and expects it to take about six months to build her own business. She's willing to put in the hard work to build a new life.
"In Iraq, people only have one chance to become successful, but here I have many (sic) many chances," said Abdalmajeed.
Jewish Family and Career Services offers tools for people from birth to end of life. More information is available here.
Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.