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Starting Over, a client’s story

Posted on July 10th, 2012.

For many For many individuals of modest financial means, whether United States’ natives or recent refugees to the country, Individual Development Accounts (IDA) provides needed economic opportunity. IDA savings programs allow low-income families to continually fund financial savings accounts towards a specific objective – ranging from the founding of small businesses to the down payment on a car for work reasons.

San Diego based Alliance for African Assistance concentrates on utilizing IDA savings accounts to assist the transitional process, to the United States, for recent refugees to the country. Matching client’s savings by 100%, up to $4,000 for a family, the IDA program of the Alliance for African Assistance has helped refugees in San Diego County achieve progress within their financial, educational, and career objectives.

In a city as disconnected and public transportation deficient as San Diego, IDA has provided the initial financial spark towards the purchase of essential personal transportation. More than five IDA candidates have been laid off from San Diego based jobs due to lack of reliable transportation. Similarly, Hawi stood on the precipice of unemployment, desperately needing a vehicle to make her night shifts at a local hospital. After turning to the Alliance for African Assistance, Hawi stepped away from employment uncertainty and moved towards transportation and financial stability.

Hawi arrived as a refugee from Ethiopia in September of 2010. A technical engineer in her home country, Hawi came to the United States with the intention of bettering the lives of both herself and her family. The transition into the United States was fraught with pitfalls. Hawi’s job search was continually fruitless, her family relations non-existent, and she harbored a rusty comprehension of the English language. One of the first to recognize her challenges, Hawi noted that her “life today is not what I expected”. However, her optimism and drive for success has ensured that her “spirit has not burned out yet”. This positive motivation led Hawi to the Alliance for African Assistance and a participation in the IDA savings match program.

Working at a local hospital, Hawi was required to attend to the later, evening shifts. As she still depended on public transportation and rides from friends, there was no guarantee of a timely ride either to or from work. On certain occasions, Hawi slept at her job to ensure she would not be late to her CNA PM shift. However, the final straw for Hawi came one night after finishing her shift at the hospital.

Exhausted from a chaotic shift and dreading the inconvenient bus ride towards downtown, Hawi waited tiredly at a nearby bus stop. Minutes dragged into hours and, with an almost nervous apprehension, Hawi realized she had been waiting for nearly an hour at the bus stop – it was now midnight. As public transportation MTS busses don’t run that late on Sundays, and without any ride contacts, Hawi began the nearly eight-mile walk back to downtown San Diego. For Hawi, the experience was just like starting over. With extensive family relations in Ethiopia, as well as a sound job and means of moving to and from locations, the long walk along the San Diego streets around midnight caused Hawi to consider if she had made a correct decision in relocating to the United States. After arriving home at 4am, Hawi decided it was time for an outreach for assistance. The Alliance for African Assistance held out a helping hand.

With a job in peril, as her reliability to get to work was severely undermined by a lack of reliable transportation, Hawi became involved with the IDA program within the Alliance for African Assistance. Meeting basic program requirements, such as being a refugee within the past three years, Hawi was admitted into the program. With a growing savings account, continually matched by IDA funds, Hawi eventually accumulated enough money to, just recently, purchase a car. Long gone were the days of waiting alone in brisk evening nights in San Diego under a dimly lit bus stop. The car has served Hawi’s needs by ensuring her timely arrival to work as well as her ability to get more readily to master level courses for nursing; consequently, ensuring her present employment and increasing her ability for better future occupations.

“I know that there are many challenges along the way, but I am determined,” Hawi mentioned when asked about her future plans. Hawi’s determination, coupled with her discovery of the resources provided by IDA and Alliance for African Assistance, not only secured her a vehicle but, more importantly, has illuminated, as Hawi notes, the future ability for “something good” to develop out of her “difficult life today”.



Author: Alexander Wowra

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