On Saturday, a job fair for immigrants from Afghanistan in the D.C. area took place at Tysons Corner Center in Virginia.
Job seekers, like 21-year-old Mohammad Fasih Yaqoobi, had the chance to meet with more than 30 employers hiring for roles at all skill levels.
In Yaqoobi’s case, the fair represented an opportunity to provide for his family, who have already lived a lifetime of unimaginable circumstances.
Yaqoobi’s father died when he was 11, “and also I lost my brother about seven years ago in Afghanistan,” he said.
He and his mother, three brothers and a younger sister made it out of their home country on foot, and the journey was anything but easy.
Yaqoobi explained how he carried his sister, who’s sick with “two different diseases, and she has now cancer.”
With the help of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the family eventually made it to the United States, but the trials continue.
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“I need to take care of them. It’s so hard for me, it’s so hard,” he said. “I’m here to see if I can find another job, a little bit more of an important job.”
Yaqoobi was one of hundreds of Afghan refugees looking for better work and lives at this weekend’s job fair at the Hyatt Regency in Tysons Corner.
Currently, he has a job that barely pays the rent – but that could change after this fair.
“We had 30 percent of people who came yesterday walked out with a job,” REACT DC CEO Amy Marden said.
The candidates are college professors, engineers, drivers and maintenance professionals.
“Just because somebody is starting over in a new country, [it] doesn’t mean that they don’t bring a wealth of experience in background and education,” Melissa Diamond, of Talent Beyond Boundaries, said.
The groups behind the fair also help bridge the cultural chasms that can exist.
“The whole process will be for them to have the American dream that I had, because I am a refugee immigrant myself,” Nila Latif, of the American Refugee Crisis Committee, said.
They estimate that since last August, 7,000 new immigrants have settled in Northern Virginia alone. Efforts like this ease the burden for a 21-year-old family patriarch like Yaqoobi.
“I have hope. I have hope,” Yaqoobi said through a smile. “In about one year, or two years, or three years, but hopefully… we will see a good day coming.”