Her job is to help settle refugees in Akron. She's still finding home for herself
It’s a Monday afternoon in October, and Tamana Ziar is sitting in the living room of a two-story house in north Akron with a newly arrived refugee family. Ziar is a resettlement case manager for the International Institute of Akron (IIA). She‘s in her 20s, wearing a cream-colored hijab around her head, has brown eyes and a calming presence when she speaks.
She is working with the family to set up their employment authorization documents so that they can find work in their new community. She also delivers mail to the family, who resettled from Myanmar.
Like her clients, Ziar is new here. She and her family arrived in Akron under a Special Immigrant Visa in July of 2021 after leaving their home in Afghanistan.
In her work, Ziar helps refugees and immigrants who just moved to the U.S. Her job includes enrolling kids into school, setting up medical appointments and referring newcomers to the English department at IIA. That’s where they can take English as a second language classes. Her job also includes working with government agencies. For example, she helps refugees and immigrants to apply for a work permit through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“When you came to a stranger country like U.S., U.S. have a lot of things going on, have a lot of things that you have to learn as a refugee, as an immigrant and there's different processing, there's different types of like it, even you have to have a Social Security card or public benefits and after that, the housing issues,” Ziar said.
Reflecting on her own experiences
Navigating these processes has been challenging even for her — someone whose job it is to help others settle here.
Before arriving, when Ziar imagined living in the U.S., she said that beautiful things came to her mind.
She was surprised when her family moved into their home in Akron.
“Our house was not in a good situation,” she said. “There was a lot of roaches. Our kitchen was not clean, and I went there and I was cleaning that I was like, ‘Why I have to clean this?’ I think it was something that the landlord have to do, but he didn't do that for us.”
And a few days later, they found bedbugs.
“I didn't knew what bedbugs are the very first time, and then after that we came here to talk about that with our case manager and they helped us to spray all for those roaches and bedbugs but there was still them,” she said.
IIA ended up paying an exterminator three times to fumigate Ziar’s home. But the bedbugs didn’t leave. So, Ziar began looking for another place to live.
It took her three months.
She said that searching for a new home was complicated for her, and she relied on advice from housing specialists at IIA to find her family's new residence.
Helping others and herself
Ziar and her family have lived in their new home, just southeast of downtown Akron, since April. It’s a two-story tan duplex. The inside floors are layered with ornate rugs. The living room is big enough for family and a few friends to gather.
She said this new house is a good size for her family, and it’s clean. There are no bedbugs.
And while Ziar is personally navigating all of these issues as someone new to Akron, she devotes her working hours to helping others. She said that sometimes her clients become like family because she sees them a lot when they first arrive.
“I don't know how many times,” she said, “even sometimes they're, they invited me to their party and I said, ‘I can't come because I had a work to do so.' Sometimes clients are so kind to you. And I like that.”
She said her own experiences help her understand what her clients are going through. And she wants to continue to help them navigate through daily challenges.