Janda and I spoke with each other entirely in English.
A few months ago, when Janda started at WorkWell, our tech hub transforming refugees into freelancers and entrepreneurs, she didn’t know any English at all.
Just a few months later? We had a full conversation about her life in Syria, her family, fleeing ISIS, and starting again in Iraq—all in English. Janda’s English skills aren’t perfect yet, but she is making rapid progress.
That’s how bright she is. That’s how hard she works.
Many students enrolled at WorkWell, whether displaced from ISIS-affected areas of Iraq or Syria, face numerous complications that make it difficult to find their footing and provide for their families. They’ve fled their homes in the midst of war, yes. They’ve lost everything they built over their lifetimes, yes. On their own, those losses are tragic. But when you layer on top of that the death of loved ones, sickness, disability, and trauma—it’s a crushing weight that some carry.
Janda is one of those carrying a heavy weight, but you’d never know it to look at her. She is known for her wide smile, her strength, and her optimism. Janda shines! But in quiet moments of conversation, away from the busyness of her class, her smile slips and another story is told in tears quickly brushed away.
Janda is the breadwinner for her family. Her husband suffered a debilitating back injury six years ago and is unable to work. So she is the one who makes sure her husband and her two sons are cared for. When they arrived in Iraq five years ago, it was Janda who created a home for a then 6-month-old, 4-year-old, and her husband. And ever since, it has been Janda who has carried the responsibility of providing for their needs.
It’s an incredible burden that Janda carries with a smile. She works hard to make the best use of her classes as possible. She speaks to her sons in English, sharing what she’s learned and extending that teaching as far as possible.
She loves being at WorkWell. Janda tells me this over and over: she loves it. WorkWell staff strive to create a calm, professional environment. When Janda is at WorkWell, the emotional weight that she carries doesn’t feel as heavy. She knows that she is gaining skills she can use in the future to help her family.
Janda is the kind of student WorkWell was made for—bright, eager, hardworking…and vulnerable because of war. Janda is the kind of student you’re helping to access the online job market.
War disrupts every aspect of life, including the economy. You are helping young Syrian and Iraqi women and men to operate in the global economy, in spite of the limitations that come with displacement.