Timing and Perseverance Generate Positive Career Prospects

Many people had to make adjustments during the pandemic. Jobs changed, personal lives changed, and even basic daily routines changed.

Now imagine adding to the chaos by not only moving, but moving to a different continent and a whole new culture.

Masoumeh Khodadadi was forced from her home in Iran just as Covid-19 began to shut things down in the United States.

Speaking Farsi through an interpreter, Khodadadi explained why she needed to leave Iran.

“I came to this country because life was very difficult,” Khodadadi said. “We were undocumented immigrants in Iran – kids couldn’t go to school, and we were just about to get deported from Iran to Afghanistan.”

Khodadadi said she and part of her family fled to Turkey, but were then sent to the United States by the United Nations.

She then chose Michigan because one of her children had already come to the state a few years earlier.

Luckily for her, she narrowed it down to Kalamazoo.

The outlook when they got to Kalamazoo, Khodadadi said, was positive.

“We thought this was going to be a new home for us,” she said. “Where kids can go to school and get educated and become something for themselves. And security and peace of mind.”

After more than a year, Khodadadi said she is still happy with the choice.

While beginning a new life, in a new country, during a pandemic might seem insurmountable to most people, Khodadadi was very fortunate to be referred to the PATH program at Michigan Works! Southwest.

She was assigned to Career Coach Diana Easter, who has experience working with those who are new to the country.

“PATH has been a great help to me and my family,” Khodadadi said. “Diana especially has been really helpful and supportive. Diana has basically been the person to go to for everything – the only one who’s actually listening to my problems and trying to come up with solutions.”

As part of the PATH program, participants are required to participate in job searching, job training, and community service.

While it has proven difficult to find a place in Kalamazoo where the employees speak Farsi, Easter and the staff at Michigan Works! have been hard at work finding every resource possible to help Khodadadi feel comfortable in her new home.

Khodadadi is taking ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, which was set up by Easter, using a laptop provided by the PATH program. She says learning a new language is difficult, but her instructors haven’t noticed.

“The ESL Instructors have commented that Masoumeh has made great progress, they can tell how hard she is studying to learn the English language,” Easter said.

Khodadadi also mentioned that Easter has helped her find household items from time to time and made sure she had up-to-date information about available Covid-19 vaccinations so she could make the decision for her and her family.

But that doesn’t mean Khodadadi hasn’t been figuring some things out on her own.

“One of the goals of the PATH program is to teach individuals how to find solutions to problems,” Easter said. “It was a joy to me when Masoumeh said that I taught her how to solve problems. Masoumeh has excelled in learning how to problem-solve.”

Khodadadi is hoping to find a job and get into the workforce soon, however, her responsibilities to her family and home are making that difficult.

Because of the pandemic, she is homeschooling her children – and her mother has become dependent on 24-hour homecare. Add limited transportation options, and Khodadadi has a tough road ahead.

“Masoumeh is a brave individual who continues to navigate her way in a country she does not know,” Easter said.

And with the PATH program and partnering agencies, she won’t be navigating things alone.

“I still have lots of struggles to overcome here, but things are going to get better,” Khodadadi said. “I am not giving up.”