Career fair in Prince George’s Co. helps Afghan refugees connect to jobs

Representatives from the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System and Employ Prince George’s help Afghan refugees get connected with resources during Saturday’s fair. (Photo WTOP/Valerie Bonk)
Toiletries and other items were given out at a job and resource fair for Afghan refugees on Saturday. (Photo WTOP/Valerie Bonk)
Ismael Shah spoke about owning your own business at Saturday’s event. (Photo WTOP/Valerie Bonk)
Representatives from the Prince George's County Memorial Library System and Employ Prince George's help Afghan refugees get connected with resources during Saturday's fair. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Many Afghan refugees who have arrived in the D.C. region not only need a place to stay, but also help finding work. A job fair in Prince George’s County on Saturday hoped to give them a head start.

Ikramullah Gujar came to the U.S. seven months ago, and was living in a refugee center until recently. Now, he’s looking for work.

“I’m trying to get a job, and help myself and my family. This is a new world for me,” Gujar told WTOP through a translator.

The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations co-sponsored a job and resource fair hosted by the Dar-us-Salaam Islamic Center and Islamic Relief at the Diyanet Center of American in Lanham, Maryland, for newly-arrived Afghan families.

About 150 refugees were shuttled to the fair from various apartment buildings and hotels in the area. Employers and translators were on hand to help them find jobs and get set up with things like a library card. They also gave away free food boxes and bags of toiletries.

Employers at the event included Amazon, Lorien Health Services and Impact Tech. Employ Prince George’s was there to assist applicants.

“It’s a good feeling, because we all from level zero and we work our way up,” said Marnice Williams, a program manager for Dar-Us Salaam.

Volunteer interpreter Muhammadarif Wali helped translate for people at the fair who didn’t speak English. In addition to translating, he also tried to connect them to resources.

“We are trying to help them. Teach them how to make resumes, how to apply for jobs,” Wali said.

Ismael Shah was a speaker at the event who talked about how to create your own business. He believes that skill is not really taught in Afghanistan.

“I’m here to introduce the idea of business to my people,” Shah said. “We have this different culture back in Afghanistan, that the only way to work and survive is that you have to work for someone else. The teaching of business is not really taught in schools. It’s completely different in America. Society is built on business.”

Kesha Abdul-Mateen, U.S. regional program coordinator at Islamic Relief, said the key to success for new refugees is helping them find work.

“It’s to help these newly-resettled Afghans here in the United States find a foothold, which is finding a job,” Abdul-Mateen said. “It’s all so they can support their families, because who doesn’t want to support their own family with their own money?”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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