LEWISTON — Haibado Daher was a teacher back home in Djibouti. Here, she was a single mom with three kids and no job.
City staff pointed her toward the Trinity Jubilee Center last fall to fulfill a volunteering requirement tied to General Assistance. While she waited for a work permit, Daher, 38, helped people coming in the door as a soup kitchen manager, designing menus, prepping food. In turn, Trinity staff helped Daher by creating a resume, filling out online applications.
“I knew how to make a resume, but it was in French,” she said.
In May, Daher landed a full-time job on the overnight renovation team at the Auburn Walmart.
“It’s really hard, but I’m so happy,” she said. “It’s a dream starting.”
Trinity has helped more than 200 people find work in the last year by giving them a hand with bare essentials — sometimes as simple as letting someone use their phone to call on a help wanted ad.
“We’re a community center and people who are coming in for the soup kitchen and the food pantry are always working on fixing their situation,” Executive Director Erin Reed said. “A couple years ago, people started to ask if we’d help them look for work and it’s just grown from there.”
There’s no formal program name and no formal hours. Help is one-on-one from staff or a summer work study student, everything from creating resumes (which are kept on file for future use) to filling out new hire packets.
About 10 to 25 people a day come in for it, a mix of new arrivals and longtime residents.
People have found work in retail, shipping and packing, call centers, housekeeping and through staffing companies.
Last year, 14 percent were teens applying for their first job. More than 20 percent were already employed but weren’t getting enough hours or wanted to pick up a second job.
Three years ago, when Reed started keeping track, they helped 60 people in a year. Two years ago, it was 150. Between July 2016 and June 2017, it was 212, officially. She suspects it might be as high as 300.
“Once somebody gets a job, they don’t need to come in for the food pantry or the soup kitchen anymore, so we might not even know that they got that job,” Reed said. “What I love is that every time I go shopping, I run into people we’ve helped. They’re collecting carts in the parking lot, they’re stocking shelves, they’ll help me find what I need in the store, they’re working at the cash register.”
Abdou Moussa, 41, also originally from Djibouti, volunteered at Trinity most of last year. A founding member of that country’s Rotary Club back home, he’d worked in shipping and freight. He speaks five languages. Much of his volunteering was as an interpreter.
“It’s a very warm place to be, very helpful,” Moussa said. “The key person is Erin, showing us how to serve others.”
Trinity staff helped him with a resume and his wife with a job application. He was hired at a call center last February. She also found a job.
“In my previous job, there was customer service and sales, so that’s what I’m doing,” Moussa said.
The couple have two children, and like Daher, it was a big deal to find work and leave General Assistance behind.
“We are running from it; you’re on a certain limited income and there’s no independence,” Moussa said. “You can earn more money for your family (if you have) your work permit and everything. Nobody wants to go back.”
He’s taking a transition course now, planning to enroll at Central Maine Community College to purse a degree in business administration.
Daher appreciated that during her job search, Trinity staff would ask, “How was your interview?”
“When you come back in, they care,” she said.
Her Walmart jobs ends at the end of August. She’s already been back in to Trinity to get a hand with filling out new applications.
“I want to be a substitute teacher,” she said.