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Living the American Dream

IN HIS NATIVE COUNTRY of Somalia, Warsame Warsaali was a hard-working owner of a passenger transportation company. He also grew “the best bananas in the world,” exporting them to Europe.

When civil war erupted in 2003, Warsame’s wife and five children, who are now ages 16 to 27, immigrated to the U.S. But Warsame moved from one refugee camp to another in several different African countries before finally reuniting with his family in the Twin Cities in 2012. 

Warsame had the opportunity to tell his story to Rep. Keith Ellison (D) from Minnesota’s 5th District who visited with Rise team members, job-seekers, and local employers at Rise’s Pathways office in South Minneapolis on February 18. Ellison was interested to learn more about how Rise is working collaboratively with employers and other agencies to assist people who are receiving welfare to find a good job and become self-sufficient. Ellison was he was impressed with Warsame’s work ethic.

“My dream always was to work in the United States and make the most of all the opportunities available here,” said Warsame. “I did not want to just sit at home taking benefits from the government, I wanted to get to work and have a good job. If a person wants to get somewhere, he does whatever it takes to improve.”

Although Warsame worked a number of temp jobs in the Twin Cities through an agency, it wasn’t enough to support his family so they were forced to go on public assistance. 

Because he was receiving MFIP (Minnesota Families Investment Program) benefits through Hennepin County, Warsame was referred to Rise for career planning and job placement services.   

Hillary Thomas, a Rise MFIP placement specialist, said Warsame was incredibly persistent and determined to provide for his family without government support. He came to Rise’s Pathways office every morning to conduct his job search on the computers.  

At a Pathways job fair, he was hired by Global Delta Services to be a ramp agent at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. It was a good job, but Warsame needed more hours to support his family so he began looking for another part-time job.

He continued to use the computers and resources available at Pathways for his job search. Last fall, Warsame found a job opening online with the new Amazon Fulfillment Center in Shakopee. He applied and was hired at $13 an hour, which enabled him to leave his job with Global Delta Services. He was also proud to be able to end his public assistance and support his family on his wages.  

Warsame said that so far, living in the U.S. has surpassed his original expectations of opportunities and he is most grateful.   

“This is the American Dream,” he said. “I love working at Amazon and I love this country. I used to believe that America was a land of equal opportunity – but I see now it’s even much more than that!” 

Warsame’s long-range plan is to start his own transportation business like he had in Somalia. He supports his Somali friends and family however he can as they make a new life in the United States.

This article appears in the March 2016 issue of the Rise Reporter.