The small fiberglass boat sways as it speeds north from Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. 23 people are huddled inside, barely able to move. The sun beats down on them. They are hungry. Ever since water splashed inside and spoiled their bread, there has not been any food. They worry that the boat might capsize and toss them all into the sea, where no one will come to rescue them. As they cling to the side of the boat or each other to support themselves, they also hold on tightly to the hope that they will reach Malta safely.
For many Sudanese and Somali refugees who flee violence and persecution in their home countries, the promise of a new life often begins with this perilous three-day voyage from Libya to Malta, where safety and jobs await them. Zakaria, a refugee from Sudan, was one of the 23 people on this boat.
After three days, they finally made it to Malta, where Zakaria lived for six years before coming to Georgia as a refugee. On May 19, 2010, Zakaria flew from Malta to Atlanta, where Mohamed, one of LSG’s case managers, picked him up from the airport and helped him to resettle in the U.S.
Given his arduous journey from Sudan to Libya and then to Malta, it is no wonder that Zakaria is a determined, diligent worker. After living in Georgia for a month and a half, he found work at the Omni Hotel, with the help of LSG’s employment services. He worked there for over two years, though his work day did not stop when his shift at the hotel ended. While working at the Omni, he took English classes in Chamblee and worked as a taxi driver in Athens on the weekends. As a result of this hard work, he earned enough money to buy his own car and improved his language skills significantly: when he arrived in the United States he could not speak English, and after two years he could speak conversationally with others.
But after more than two years at the Omni Hotel, Zakaria wanted to do something else with his life. Interested in helping other refugees acclimate to life in the United States, he quit his job and started to volunteer at LSG, where he helped refugees who spoke Arabic settle into their new lives in Georgia. He picked up LSG’s clients at the airport, drove them to obtain social security cards and Georgia IDs, and assisted them with shopping and groceries. He was helping others as he had been helped himself two years earlier.
After Zakaria had been volunteering at the agency for three months, LSG noticed the great work that he was doing and decided to hire him as a case worker. Zakaria is not the only person who has come to the United States as a refugee and decided to work for LSG; 11 former refugees work in LSG’s Refugee Services. LSG is fortunate to have this experienced group of individuals who are committed to welcoming refugees to Georgia, and we are proud to welcome Zakaria as one of the newest members of our crew!