ASAP works with asylum seekers from all over the world who are united by their shared belief in American freedom and values.
Our clients became targets in their countries of origin because of their work to advance the principles that define America: democratic governance, women’s rights, ethnic and racial equality, religious freedom, LGBTQ rights, and free speech. We work with doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists, engineers, journalists, small business owners, religious clergy, community organizers, and students among others.
Although most asylum seekers arrive to the U.S. with few resources, ASAP is founded on the principle that our clients also come with knowledge, skills, and expertise to contribute to their new community. Our job as an organization is to connect clients to resources so they may reach their full potential.
“Rahel” (not her real name) came to Washington, D.C. in August of 2016 with her husband, a journalist, and three daughters seeking asylum. Rahel and her family fled Ethiopia because of her husband's work. Although she was a seasoned teacher and school administrator in her native country, it was a challenge for her to navigate the U.S. job market.
Rahel attended the first job readiness training offered by ASAP in April 2017. Here she learned how to turn her curriculum vita into an American-style resume, refine her elevator pitch and improve her interviewing skills. “It gave all of us - especially me - just more confidence,” says Rahel. “Then everything connected like a puzzle.”
In May, Rahel applied for a position in at a Montessori school to work with young children. She submitted her cover letter and resume, recently polished from her ASAP training, and kept in mind interview advice on turning weaknesses into strengths. Before leaving the interview, Rahel was offered a part-time job as an assistant teacher beginning in late August.
“I was so excited,” recalls Rahel, who was greeted with hugs from her family after hearing her good news but there was another challenge. “Because of the change in environment, some people think they cannot go back to their professional jobs or contribute as much as much as they did back home. But ASAP teaches you how to do it… You just need the right guidance.”
Back home in Honduras, "Jose" (not his real name) led an ordinary, middle class life. He regularly met with his large extended family for Sunday meals and holidays, often lingering over coffee late into the evening. He had a career as a mechanical engineer and was studying to obtain an advanced degree. In 2015, Jose fled his country after he was outed as a gay man.
The transition to living in the Washington, D.C., area was not easy. In the beginning, Jose did not know anyone. “It was strange. I like to be with my family, but here I was alone,” he recalls. “No one was able to talk with me. I had no place to go. It was a very, very bad time.” Although Jose maintained legal presence as an asylum seeker, he did not qualify for any assistance to help meet his basic needs. Initially unable to work, Jose struggled to have enough money for groceries, transportation and rent. “Sometimes I had nothing to eat,” Jose recalled “and I would drink lots of water to make my stomach feel full.” Jose paid $450 per month to live in a basement infected with bedbugs.
Nine months after his arrival, Jose learned about ASAP. “When I first came to ASAP, I found someone who listened to me and understood my problems,” says Jose. He received information about resources in the community to help him find food, clothing, medical care, and community support. Once his basic needs were met, Jose was enrolled in ASAP employment program to orient and prepare him to find a job.
In the past, Jose had been told to forget about being an engineer in the U.S. “People told me all you can do is drive Uber or work at 7/11. But ASAP gave me the confidence in my engineering potential,” Jose said. After completing his training, Jose began applying for professional positions. Jose received three job interviews in one week. "I couldn't believe it! Now I knew things would get better," he said. Jose accepted a full-time position at a nearby airport servicing aircrafts. “It fits me. I’m back to my professional area,” he said. “Now, I can pay my bills. It feels like I am standing on my own two feet. I’m very thankful that ASAP gave me back my hope and strength."