A long journey begins
Danda Adhikari was six years old when he suffered with a fever that lasted for nearly three months and left him unable to walk easily. He was just eight years old when his family was forced out of their homeland in Bhutan (located between India and China) to a refugee camp in Nepal where he lived with his parents and younger brother for 18 years. In 2008, Danda became one of the 60,000 refugees the United States volunteered to resettle in America. And now, Dande is living in Cleveland.
Since the early 1990s, more than 110,000 Bhutanese have sought refuge in camps administered by the United Nations in Nepal and elsewhere. And in 2008, the United States volunteered to resettle 60,000 of these refugees – described by the United Nations as one of the world’s largest resettlement efforts ever.
The U.S. Department of State, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, partners with local agencies across the country on efforts to resettle refugees. In Greater Cleveland, the International Services Center (ISC) helps resettle more than 120 immigrants and refugees from various countries each year. The ISC is a resettlement and social services agency dedicated to assisting immigrants and other new Americans in overcoming social, cultural and economic barriers so they can establish a successful new life in the United States. The agency receives funding for its programs related to Refugees, Immigrants & Repatriated Services from United Way of Greater Cleveland.
A life changing experience
One year ago, 26-year-old Danda and his family arrived at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and were greeted by ISC representatives. “We take care of everything, from greeting the new arrivals at the airport, to providing them with their first meal in America, to finding housing and furniture, helping with required paperwork, lining up necessary medical evaluations, providing a basic orientation and more,” said Marta Paul, refugee resettlement supervisor at ISC. “In Danda’s case, it was obvious he needed some additional medical attention, as he was transported through the airport in a wheelchair, so we made arrangements for him to be seen by a physician at University Hospitals.”
During his time in the refugee camp, Danda did receive some medical attention and doctors attempted to diagnose his condition, but their efforts were not successful. By the time he arrived in Cleveland, his leg muscles were very constricted and twisted, and his ability to walk was severely compromised. After undergoing a variety of tests, Danda underwent orthopedic surgery in March on his thighs and ankles. He spent three weeks in a full body cast, then more time in leg casts and inpatient rehabilitation. Today, Danda continues to go for physical therapy, but he is able to walk upright with the support of a simple cane.
Coming to the U.S. and to Cleveland has already been a totally life changing experience for Danda, and he is ready for the next stage of his journey. But just what is next for a young man who has overcome so much already in his 26 years? “I feel like I am wasting time – there is so much I want to do and learn. I want to work, to be able to help support my family. In the refugee camp, I worked in the library, and I learned a lot about computers. I’d like to find an employer who values my long term goal of getting an education, and who is able to be flexible regarding my ongoing medical needs. I want to be productive, to be a contributor – it is important that the younger generation works to help the older generation, and I want to do my part,” he said.
Reposted with permission from the United Way of Greater Cleveland
National Safety Apparel has made seamless transition
National Safety Apparel has made seamless transition
By JAY MILLER
4:30 am, February 18, 2013
With U.S. garment manufacturing nearly extinct and most American closets lined with a United Nations of shirts, pants, dresses and coats, a Cleveland maker of industrial clothing is growing with workers newly arrived here from Africa, Asia and elsewhere.
National Safety Apparel Inc. stands at 150 employees, nearly tripling its head count since 2001, said Sal Geraci, the company’s vice president of operations.
About 40 of those employees were hired from refugee resettlement programs. Most of those employees work on the production floor, cutting, sewing and packaging the company’s line of protective clothing.
The sewing production floor takes up about half the company’s 90,000-square-foot building on Industrial Parkway in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood. With the help of International Services Center — a social services agency in Cleveland that helps immigrants and refugees attain self-sufficiency — and Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services program, the company has found a steady supply of new employees — refugees from a total of 27 countries.
“We were struggling to find people who could sew or were willing to learn,” Mr. Geraci said of hiring difficulties that began a decade ago. “It’s somewhat of a dying art.”
That’s when the company hired its first newly arrived worker, a trained seamstress.
In 2001, Catholic Charities began formal training programs for National Safety Apparel sewing workers. The International Services Center program began three years ago.
At International Services Center’s headquarters on Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland, new immigrants, who may have been seamstresses in their home countries, learn about industrial sewing and train on stand-up sewing machines donated by National Safety Apparel. It’s part of a curriculum that includes classes in English and in other skills that will help them adjust to life in the United States.
“This is a true partnership with National Safety Apparel that can deliver employees,” said Gretchen Becker, an employment development specialist at International Services Center.
“It’s vocational training for an existing job,” Ms. Becker said.
A helping hand
International Services Center is supported by United Way of Greater Cleveland. The nonprofit works with the U.S. State Department to assist in refugee resettlement. It also derives income by offering translation services.
The center helps refugees with housing and lining up social services. But a key for the refugees is the programs that help them enter the work force. Those training programs begin with learning English and move on to helping them develop job-hunting skills.
“Our goal is self-sufficiency (for the refugees) and employment,” said the center’s executive director, Karin Wishner.
The federal government considers as refugees people living outside their home country who are unable to return home because of political unrest and racial or religious persecution. A limited number of refugees — less than 100,000 annually — gain entry to the United States. The president sets the limit annually.
The State Department works with resettlement agencies to find refugees places to live and to enroll their children in schools. Resettled refugees who pass health and security reviews immediately are able to work in the United States and can become citizens in five years.
Ms. Wishner said International Services Center found National Safety Apparel after it began seeing refugees who had done sewing, beading or working with fabrics in their native lands. Now the agency is looking for other companies that might need the same skills, such as apparel makers Hugo Boss AG and Cintas Corp.
National Safety Apparel makes 8,000 different products at its headquarters and production center on Industrial Parkway. Its products range from the reflective safety orange and fluorescent yellow vests worn by construction workers and cut-resistant jackets and leggings worn by glass factory workers to heat-resistant gloves and suits worn by steelworkers and welders.
Shop floor employees work in teams and learn all the skills needed to assemble particular garments; Mr. Geraci called it the “Toyota Sewing System,” which emphasizes teamwork and continuous improvement. (The Toyota Production System, or the “Toyota Way,” has been adapted to many industries beyond autos.)
Each pod has a computer that breaks down the tasks needed to complete each garment. The pods also have drawings posted, rather than instructions in English, to assist team members not yet adept in English with garment assembly.
Workers are paid about $11 an hour plus incentives for meeting productivity goals.
Mr. Geraci said some new workers drop out after 90 days because they realize sewing or the shop floor isn’t for them. The next benchmark is at the end of the first year.
“Once people get beyond the first year we feel like they really are committed to the organization, committed to sewing,” he said. “Unless something extreme comes along, like a family move, we see little turnover after the first year.”