I am a Kenyan immigrant who has been living in Philadelphia for the past six years. Arriving in Philadelphia as an immigrant in July 2015 was both exciting and scary. Exciting because I was coming home to my husband but scary because I had to learn to live in a new culture. Within a few hours of being in Philadelphia, the newness of culture, language, and the fast-paced environment seemed overwhelming. There were times I felt lost.
Thankfully, someone told me about The Welcoming Center, and I immediately made plans to go there. I needed to connect with people who understood what I was going through and when I found The Welcoming Center, I found my second home in Philadelphia.
I connected with other immigrants and realized that I was not alone. I learned how to create a U.S.-style resume and navigate online job searches that were new to me so that I could begin my life in my new home. This experience gave me new friends and several job interviews that led to my first U.S. job in 2016, resettling refugees in our region.
This was only the beginning. In 2017, I took the citizenship classes that The Welcoming Center offered. Two years later, I realized a long-held, beautiful dream — my American citizenship. The citizenship classes inspired me to join The Welcoming Center’s Immigrant Leadership Institute (ILI). This program was a game changer for me. Through ILI, I made my first friend in Philadelphia. Further, with the recognition of my skills and newfound sense of belonging to the city, I found my voice as an immigrant in the U.S.
Working now as the program manager for the ILI at The Welcoming Center, I am honored to be part of a team that has a heart for immigrants and refugees. This is not just any other immigrant supporting organization — participants consider it their home and a safe space where they feel a sense of belonging and connection to community.
In the coming weeks and months, 700 Afghan evacuees will be resettling in Philadelphia. The need to expand this welcoming space is more necessary than ever. The Welcoming Center is a place where newcomers can connect with other immigrants as they build community. Our new neighbors will bring with them numerous professional skills, experiences, and talents that must not go to waste. Our International Professionals Program is ready as a resource for them to connect with employment opportunities and contribute to the economic growth of the city. They will need a space where they can take care of their wellness as they heal from past trauma so that they thrive in their new home. The Welcoming Center is here to embrace them.
Today I ask you to join me in donating to this important organization that has become a home for so many of us. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many more immigrants and refugees and welcome them as I was welcomed when I first arrived.
Thank you so much!