On October 2, a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon, friends, family and colleagues gathered with Obaid Rasoul at the Clarkston Community Center to celebrate his 33 years of service to Lutheran Services of Georgia and the refugee community. The end of September marked the final days of Obaid's long and meaningful career with LSG and the beginning of a well-earned retirement.
As LSG’s longest-serving employee, Obaid has spent the last three decades helping newly arrived refugees make their way in America by finding jobs and achieving self-sufficiency. It's a journey Obaid, a former refugee from Afghanistan, knows well. Arriving in the Atlanta area in 1983, after fleeing war and destruction in his home country, Obaid experienced the same challenges that all refugees face when searching for employment. Fortunately for the many whose lives he would touch, Obaid secured a job as an employment counselor at LSG five months after his arrival.
“In my interview, the Executive Director told me, ‘This job is hard. You have to take people from welfare to the work force. Can you do it?’ remembers Obaid. “’I’ll do my best’ I told him.”
And he’s stuck to his word. Over the years, Obaid has helped place hundreds of refugees in their first job in United States. For many, Obaid was an example of what could be achieved in America. He demonstrated the epitome of the American Dream and showed many refugees what that dream could mean for them.
“When I am in Clarkston, I have people to stop and thank me. They say ‘you gave me a job and I started my own shop or you gave me this job, and I founded this business,'” says Obaid.
While many refugees are grateful to Obaid and Lutheran Services of Georgia for aiding in their resettlement and helping them create a new life in a new country, Obaid recognizes the positive impact refugees have had on this country and our state.
“So many refugees come to the U.S. with a skill set – It’s a gift to the U.S. They may not know English but they have a skill,” says Obaid. He also feels that refugees have brought other cultural gifts to the Atlanta area. “So many foods and spices have been introduced to the people of Atlanta by refugees, and handicrafts, too.”
Celebrating for A Life of Service
On Sunday at his retirement celebration, Obaid was surrounded by his family, his wife Tourpeka, his daughter Wajma, his son Hasib and his daughter-in-law Salina and his granddaughter Noor. He was also joined by colleagues from LSG and other government and non-profit organizations dedicated to refugee resettlement, by employers of refugees, and former refugees that Obaid has worked with over the years.
His refugee clients expressed gratitude and shared stories of how Obaid helped them get their first job in the States. Colleagues praised his dedication to his work, his strong relationships with employers around the Metro area, and the humor and goodwill he brought to every meeting and event. LSG volunteers thanked him for the way he engaged them in valuable service. One government official shared how instrumental Obaid was in bringing together law enforcement and the Muslim community after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
As stories were shared, it became apparent that Obaid has touched many lives during his career with LSG.
Natalie Yasson, former Director of Refugee Services, summarized the feelings of the entire room, when she said to Obaid and the crowd, “So, on behalf of the many thousands of people whose lives you have touched over the years, Obaid, please allow me to say 'thank you' for your passion, your dedication and hard work over the last thirty three years. Congratulations on a career to be proud of and best wishes in your retirement.”
What’s Next for Obaid?
Before coming to the U.S., Obaid worked as a criminal attorney in Afghanistan and then later with the U.S. Embassy teaching English and cultural classes and the U.S. Peace Corps. After his career in Afghanistan and his career with LSG, Obaid is looking forward to slowing down and enjoying retirement.
He looks forward to spending more time with his family, especially his 9-month-old granddaughter. He also plans to travel around the country and see more of the United States. He hopes to make a trip overseas to visit Italy.