Jessica Edwards

Working with Pars Equality Center has been a great blessing. I have learned an incredible amount from the staff about the Iranian refugee and asylee community and their daily struggles as they start a new life in the United States. While working with Pars Equality Center, I had the opportunity to work on various projects.

At the beginning, I worked on gathering a list of resources available to refugees and asylees for the following; no-cost to low-cost housing, medical care, mental care, help for survivors of rape and domestic violence, transportation, sober living, food bank, and clothing. I put together a list of these resources located in Santa Barbara and contacted the local providers and charities to, when possible, get a direct contact within each organization, as well as making sure the information listed on their websites are current and valid.

Next, I worked on creating a similar list for resources available in Los Angeles which included all the same categories. In addition, I found charitable and/or government-sponsored sober living for women and food banks. While going over the list with the staff, I learned that one of the biggest obstacles that hinder refugees and asylees from staying employed and earning money is childcare. Since they don’t usually have a lot of family members living close to them, and they don’t have room in their budget to pay for childcare, they don’t have enough available hours during the day to offer to employers.

Then, I started researching to see what childcare options are out there and I was able to find a government program which subsidizes childcare for low-income families to allow them more hours for work. I added a long list of childcare places in Los Angeles that accepted that government subsidy. I also provided Pars with a search tool to be able to find the closest childcare center for each client.

After that, I worked on a project finding free government job training. I found out that government offers free ESL, cultural orientation, life skills, money management, parenting, and many more classes to refugees and asylees in order to prepare them for workplace, which is an invaluable resource to have handy at Pars to help clients.

Lastly, I put together a fact sheet informing employers that refugees and asylees are in fact authorized to work in the U.S., and in fact, not hiring them just based on their residency status is unlawful discrimination. I also outlined the benefits of hiring a refugee or an asylee including tax benefits, free background monitoring by SCRI agency, Fidelity Bonding Program insuring the workers’ honesty, and the cultural diversity brought to any company when they hire one of Pars’ clients. The fact sheet will be printed and handed out to employers along with Pars’ clients’ resumes to make it easier for them to make a decision on hiring.

Overall, I am very proud to have experienced such meaningful work through Pars’ organization. I am amazed at the generosity and the affectionate care offered by their staff to people who are very much in need of help and guidance. It’s the work of organizations such as Pars passionately looking after the Iranian community without any expectations that makes me very hopeful for my people and incredibly honored to be an Iranian.