Kim Loan and her two sons arrived in Phoenix as refugees in December of 2019. The family was from Cambodia and spoke very little English upon entering the United States.
As a family of three, employment and education were top priorities. Kim Loan’s younger son is only 17, he continues his schooling and English classes. He speaks the best English in the family.
Finding Employment as Refugees
Kim Loan and her older son, Van Hua, would be the ones to support their family’s finances. Kim Loan and Van Hua were eager to start working. Kim Loan wanted to eventually work her way up to a job at a nail salon. Van Hua was experienced in carpentry and was keen on working in the furniture sector one day. The job developers met with Kim Loan and Van Hua and made a long-term plan for both employment goals. It was important for the Catholic Charities team that newly arrived refugees have a long-term career or education goal they can pursue after their initial job. Even though they could not get their first choices right away, Kim and Van were eager to start earning money, and they successfully found jobs at a food packaging warehouse in March of 2020.
COVID-19 closures affected them in the same way it has affected millions of other families. They were laid off before the end of the month. Despite the setback, Kim Loan and Van Hua were eager to keep working and become self-sufficient.
Kim Loan had some sewing experience from her earlier jobs in Vietnam. The Catholic Charities jobs team worked with the pair and sent in an application to Tyr Tactical for Kim Loan. Tyr is a large military supply company and started to mass-produce specialty masks during the COVID crisis. They needed a steady supply of workers with sewing experience to help construct the masks. Kim Loan quickly passed the sewing test required for employment. She was put on a sewing team and now constructs the masks so many Americans depend on to keep them safe daily.
A few months later in May, Van Hua returned to work at the Focus Industry Warehouse and continues to ship out desperately needed food supplies to the American public. Not only have Kim Loan and Van Hua succeeded in getting their household self-sufficient in a short period of time, they are supporting the current needs of the U.S. by working in the vital food and mask industries.
James Stormzand is a Case Manager for Refugee Programs at Catholic Charities.