For over 125 years, Jewish Family Service has been welcoming refugees and immigrants who need our help as they establish their lives in our community. Now, JFS will continue and expand this work in brand-new offices in South King County. And we threw a party to celebrate!
On November 19, community partners, elected officials, Board and JFS staff gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the JFS Refugee and Immigrant Services (RIS) office in Kent. This new space will allow RIS to launch its first-ever gender equity programming for women refugees and immigrants, teach language and citizenship classes in a larger and more welcoming classroom, and expand employment services for clients.
The new office will also enable RIS to continue its resettlement work, which led to much better circumstances—and a new job—for Tshishiku Henry and his family. Henry spoke of his resettlement experience at the open house and talked about “his journey to hope” and home. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Henry sought refuge in Malawi where he stayed for nine years. At that point, his future was uncertain until being resettled by JFS in September 2018.
After a two-day journey across the world, Henry and his family arrived at SeaTac Airport, exhausted. Upon being greeted by JFS, he felt optimistic. “They were friendly, but efficient. Not too serious—always with a smile and encouragement,” he added. The family’s situation improved steadily as Henry found work at a warehouse and then accepted a position as Employment Case Manager for JFS.
Thinking back on the past year, Henry shared a quote from Paulo Coelho: “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” Henry’s story serves as a direct testament to the integral role that refugees and immigrants play in boosting their communities.
“We are currently experiencing a historic moment where, due to widespread global poverty and war, mass migration is on the rise across the world,” says Cordelia Revels, Director of Refugee & Immigrant Services. “I’m grateful JFS is here in Kent and able to do this work.”
Building a life in a brand-new country can be daunting and overwhelming. Reminded by Jewish history, JFS remains steadfast in its commitment to easing the transition for those new to this country.
This new office represents so much more than just a physical space to do our work. It is a testament to the power of community and strength in numbers—to know more, do more, and to better the lives of those around us.