1. Introduce yourself! What is your role at LSI and how long have you been a member of the team?
My name is Fekadu Tekle. I am an Employment Navigator at LSI and have been since November 2019.
2. What keeps you passionate about the work you do at LSI?
The work I do is helping people – coordinating their resources, training, English as a Second Language, helping apply for jobs, making resumes. It also helps me to learn every day. It is a good place to grow up.
3. Can you tell us about your journey to building a home in Iowa?
My home country is Eritrea, and I lived as a refugee in Ethiopia. I came to the U.S. Sept. 13, 2013, originally in North Carolina. After two months, I moved to Des Moines. I went to DMACC to study English, then got my GED in 2015. At that time, I was working at Walmart, which helped me with my English, working with customers. I wanted to change my life and education, so I took a six-month course in welding and became a certified welder. I worked there for a few months, but it is a physical job, so I started college at DMACC and studied human services. When I was taking classes, I was interpreting and translating. I applied to Iowa International, where I was interpreting. I was taking class part-time, taking care of family, and then I applied to LSI. Since then, I graduated from DMACC last month with a 3.5 GPA and was accepted into Upper Iowa University. Now, I am taking classes part-time, working full-time at LSI, living with my family, and I became a U.S. citizen in 2020.
4. How did you feel when you first arrived in the U.S.?
It was a shock: different language, different style of life, everything was new. I came to the U.S. by myself and they gave me a place where I was speaking just a little English. It was hard, but I was a good learner. I read magazines, books, the news, watched movies. I was doing my best to learn the language because I have seen that it is very hard to build without any communication.
5. What is your favorite thing about living in Iowa now?
It is very slow-paced and there is a lot of opportunity. You can find a job right away.
6. What do you want others to know about our refugee and immigrant community in Iowa?
I’ve been to Washington, D.C., California, Chicago. In other places, because of the population, people can’t get opportunities. But here in Iowa, everything is open. Education and opportunities are everywhere. There are places to teach and to break the language barriers.
7. What can we do to show our support for our refugee and immigrant community as we celebrate World Refugee Day this year?
Make sure they know about the opportunities available. At LSI, we have trainings, English classes, tutors for English classes, citizenship training, healthcare work training. We should highlight the opportunities available for other community members.