Zuwena Rajabu, a single mother of three, was nearing the end of her participation with Community Jobs, a Department of Commerce funded program at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) office on Trent Avenue in Spokane, WA. That’s when Employment Specialist Paula Beckner connected Zuwena to Refugee Bath Co., a company that understands the challenges presented to refugees on a daily basis. Refugee Bath Co. not only offered her a position of employment, they were excited to provide hope through the dignity of work.
Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zuwena spent 16 years of her life in refugee camps until her arrival to the United States in May 2016. Navigating the country without English was difficult in itself, but she also had to keep her children in school and enroll in employment-related programs. She was encouraged to reach out to as many refugee resources and support systems as possible and had some luck gaining temporary work experiences for skill-building purposes, but never transitioned from the temporary work to permanent, long-term employment.
Beckner identified the best course of action was to place herself in Zuwena’s shoes and think about the challenges that presented itself in pursuit of achieving her goals. Beckner said, “Zuwena is a committed individual and received coaching and services from many people. The only way I was able to truly help her was to better understand every commitment she had, earn her trust, and find an employment opportunity that would work with her schedule.”
Before Zuwena could begin her search for meaningful employment, she and Beckner committed to working out the fundamentals of the job-seeking process. “We worked very hard at developing her résumé and practiced, practiced, practiced her responses to difficult interview questions”, said Beckner. Through the Community Jobs program, Zuwena was focused on gaining essential workplace skills through a paid work experience at Global Neighborhood Thrift Shop for 20 hours per week. She also wanted to meet the program standards of studying English (as a) Second Language (ESL) courses to improve her ability to communicate with a potential employer, customers, and her community.
As Zuwena was nearing the end of the 9-month Community Jobs program, Beckner had a brilliant idea to reach out to Refugee Bath Co., a local company that imports from all over the world and is known to hire refugees. After the initial contact was made, the business provided a tour of their facilities and began to coordinate a time to interview for a production position working with their new bath product line. Zuwena was confident that communication and workplace skills would make her a strong candidate, but wondered if her transportation and childcare challenges would be the reason preventing her from gainful employment. “Absolutely not!”, said Jayne McLaughlin, Zuwena’s supervisor at Refugee Bath Co. “We hired on the spot and worked with her schedule because we knew she had the heart and determination to help us launch our new product line.” Zuwena started working full-time as a Labor & Production Assistant on June 3, 2019, making various bath products that promote peace, energy, and nourishment.
Today, Zuwena loves contributing to the success of Refugee Bath Co. She’s encouraged to wear her native clothing to work and listen to the Swahili music that helps make her work area feel like home. A month after she started, she proudly told Beckner that some of her first paycheck went to the purchase of new furniture at Global Neighborhood Thrift Store. The same paid work experience site that helped her gain confidence with her essential workplace skills.
The Refugee Bath Co. was created to provide the opportunity for refugees in our community to earn a living creating the highest quality bath products. The Refugee Bath Co. believes that refugees are a benefit to the American economy. To view and shop through their product line, visit https://www.refugeebathcompany.com, like their Facebook page @RefugeeBathCompany, and follow their Instagram account @refugeebathco.
The Community Jobs (CJ) program is a DSHS WorkFirst activity funded by the Department of Commerce that provides eligible participants with up to nine months of a paid-work experience. The goal is to assist participants to resolve challenges and gain sustainable employment. If you’re a job-seeker wanting to explore program eligibility requirements or a business/employer interested in helping create more #MeaningfulMoments, please click here to send us a message.
*All names and pictures are presented with permission.