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Hilton Hotel providing career opportunities to refugees adjusting to new life

hilton and refugees
Posted at 10:31 PM, Jul 07, 2024

CLEVELAND — Cleveland is a hub for so many seeking refuge but starting over comes with challenges, including language barriers, acclimating to a different culture and finding a job. Through USCRI, one Cleveland business is assisting those immigrants to adjust to their new life.

For four months, Romeo Santoj has spent his days ensuring guests at the Hilton stay in a clean space.

“It's like welcoming people and making them feel like a home, so it is something that is gratifying for me,” said Santoj, a refugee through USCRI.

For Romeo, he knows what it’s like to not have a comforting, welcoming space of his own. Romeo immigrated to Cleveland back in November from Guatemala. Though it was exciting to be in a new country, it came with difficulties. He had to adjust to the cold weather, different culture and language.

These are challenges many refugees face when starting over in the U.S., which also affects their ability to get a job and make a living.

“They come to the new country where they don't know the culture, they don't speak the language. Transportation is difficult. Childcare is not accessible,” said Viktoriya Skubyak with the U.S. Committee of Refugees and Immigrants.

So while USCRI helps each immigrant acclimate to life in the states, they also are looking for partners willing to hire refugees. Through it's partnerships, they aims to create career opportunities, but also meet the labor needs of Cleveland companies. In that process, they connected with the Hilton. Back in February, the hotel hired two refugees.

“We saw the work was very good from the team members and so we were like, this is a great partnership,” said Ryne Sanford Hilton, Director of housekeeping.

Then, at a job fair, the Hilton learned with so many refugees coming into the city, there was a high volume of immigrants looking for jobs. So, the hotel brought on 34 more from regions across the globe, including Sudan, Congo and Guatemala. Many work in housekeeping, where they’ll communicate through USCRI-provided translators or phone apps.

At the Hilton, Ryne never expected to work with USCRI and bring on so many immigrants, but he said it’s been one of the most rewarding things they’ve ever done.

“This is people coming from other places in the world, expanding my knowledge, expanding our knowledge as a hotel. Being able to bring them on board and just creating a family that is truly from the world,” said Sanford.

So while USCRI and the Hilton remind the world to not count refugees out.

“So we try to explain to the employers that these people are skilled they have reached high levels of success in their own country, and they are capable of reaching the same level of success. Here in the united states, but they need a starting point,” said Skubya.

They're also reminding those like Romeo that Cleveland is their home, too.

“They believed in me they saw me for who I am. They saw that I’m a hard worker that I can do things. So that makes me feel more welcome that makes me feel part of this country now and more and I don't feel like an outsider anymore,” said Romeo.

USCRI says many refugees join the workforce at entry-level jobs, and through Cleveland’s Employer Engagement Program, they have the opportunity to advance in their careers, but they are always looking for new employers. For more information, click here.

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