Laia's Story

October 19, 2017

Laia's vision of her American dream was crumbling. Her goal of creating a better life for her two daughters living in Iran, waning.

One month after arriving in Bellingham from Tehran, Laia's savings account was drained from living out of a motel for a month. She didn't know where to turn, and her limited English-speaking skill presented a major barrier in finding work. With options dwindling, Laia sought advice from the motel's front desk clerk, asking for resources that might change the outcome of her predicament.

The clerk directed Laia to Goodwill. She went to the bus station and was on her way.

“They take me (to Bellingham Goodwill) with bus, and I discover Goodwill," Laia said.

That spring day three years ago Laia was given hope and a commitment. Hope that she could make it in her new surroundings and a commitment from Bellingham Job Training and Education staff to help anyway it could.

The simple fact Laia was in the United States was extraordinary. She had entered and won a green card lottery from Iran, which was so rare she said even her immediate family didn't believe her. Laia’s husband had died, and she was left to provide for her daughters in a working climate that didn't afford many opportunities. So Laia, fearless and optimistic, traveled to the U.S. to make a better life for her daughters.

"It doesn't matter for me, but I want to save them," said Laia. "I have to make a good life for them. I thought about my daughters, because I want to make for them a good life. I want for them to have happiness, a blessed, good life."

Center Manager Jessica Hilburn exposed Laia to all of Seattle Goodwill's resources. Laia enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages classes, got help finding an apartment and was hired in production at Bellingham's retail store.

She committed herself day and night to learning the English language, and such hard work and dedication has paid dividends.

Laia was a certified beautician in Iran. She had more than 30 years of experience in the field. Her goal in the U.S is a career in cosmetology, and to attain that she needed to get new certification, but the beauty school she wanted to attend said her limited English was too large of a barrier.

But Laia was persistent. For two years she pleaded with the beauty school to let her attend, all the while improving her English each day until she finally convinced the school to accept her.

“I took one year of beauty school, and they say to me, ‘You are a very good student here,’” Laia said.

Laia has graduated from the program and needs to pass a final test to earn her certification.

“Now is very better, because I have job,” Laia said. “I have paycheck. I have insurance. Goodwill is very helpful for me. If I didn’t have Goodwill help, maybe I am back in my country, because I don’t think any organization other than Goodwill can help me like Goodwill helped me. I was very lucky to find Goodwill.”

Laia is hopeful she’ll eventually bring her daughters to the U.S., but for now she’s happy progressing her English skill and working toward a career that will support the life they have in Iran.

Interested in receiving news from Goodwill? Sign up now!