by Matt Zeller
Part of fulfilling the mission of No One Left Behind is supporting our chapters in their creative efforts to effectively assist Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) families with their transition to new lives in the U.S.
NOLB has helped over 40 SIV families acquire a vehicle through our Wheels to Work program in our Rochester, NY chapter. We need your financial support to continue this and other important programs that are at the core of our mission.
Cars are a necessary part of life in western New York where brutal winters and poor public transportation mean that a car is essential to stable employment and self-sufficiency. To help SIV families address this employment and lifestyle challenge, NOLB’s Rochester Chapter runs a “Wheels-to-Work” program.
Because of a donation in our Wheels-to-Work program, we were able to purchase a 2008 Ford Focus for Saifadden three days before he started working full time and he was able to get completely off of social services benefits and Medicaid. He also completed forklift training, and in April of 2018, accepted a higher-paying job at Xerox’s campus in Webster, NY.
The Wheels to work program holds fundraisers for vehicles through a campaign called “Pennies from Heaven.” The concept of “Pennies from Heaven” is that it only takes 500 people donating 600 pennies each to get a car in the hands of a deserving SIV family. More than a car, these vehicles help SIVs find and retain work, build self-sufficiency and help SIV families reduce or eliminate their need of social service benefits quickly.
For example, Mustafa and Shirin arrived from Iraq in January 2016. By April, Shirin had a job with a local tailor and for one month, volunteers faithfully brought her to work every morning because she had to be there before the buses started to run. A car allowed Mustafa to bring her to work and then he was able to find a job through a volunteer at Orafal Precision Technology.
In February 2017, Samir lost a job opportunity with Xerox for lack of “reliable transportation.” Two weeks after getting a car, he was hired by a JML Optics in East Rochester, (April 2017) where he has full-time work to support his wife and newborn baby. He was also able to give two other SIVs rides to work at JML. Samir was also able to pick up a part-time job at Starbucks in Brighton on the weekends, and a couple of nights each week. His wife has learned to drive, and she is now working every Saturday at an antique shop. The car has allowed them to move to a less expensive two-bedroom apartment.
Feroz has a family of five and a background in HVAC. While NOLB found him a job, unfortunately, it required driving to job sites, and he failed his road test twice. He was then offered a job with intermittent hours, depending on the job site. We got him a van on April 3, 2017, through a Pennies from Heaven campaign. As of May 2018, he is driving with Uber, working on-call as an HVAC assistant with a contractor, and just interviewed with Greece Central School District for full-time HVAC job. He is hoping that he will earn enough through Uber to completely get off of DSS.
Hadairi arrived January 29 2017 and took the bus 90 minutes one way to attend English classes at OACES. He then took and graduated from, the OACES mechanic’s program. Thanks to a Pennies for Heaven donation drive from Progressives in Action, we were able to purchase a 2008 Ford Fusion that allowed Raziq to secure a job at Henderson Ford, in Webster, NY, and he works part-time at Starbucks at 12 Corners in Brighton.
The “Wheels-to-Work” program works. But it does more than just help new SIV’s get and keep a job, it builds confidence and self-worth in the program participants. SIVs must log volunteer hours with NOLB in order to get a vehicle must have a valid NY license; take a five-hour permit course; and, take a six-hour online safety course (reduces insurance by 10%).
We are committed to helping SIVs find a viable path to self-sufficiency. Those we serve are eager to earn their own way if only given a chance. For many, these vehicles are that chance. In fact, a joint study by the Urban Institute, UCLA and University of Maryland recently found that those families on government assistance who were given modest vehicles were “twice as likely to find jobs and four times as likely to stay employed.”
Thank you for your continued support of NOLB!