Heartland worker helps refugees find job, start over in Chicago

On any given day, Joy Duginske might be talking to an Iraqi refugee hoping to find a job in Chicago or helping a single mother from Burma find not only a job, but child care while she works. For someone who grew up in a comfortable suburb of Indianapolis, this exposure to the world’s problems has been life-altering, Duginske says.

As part of the refugee and immigrant services team for Heartland Human Care Services in Chicago, Duginske spends her time helping refugees polish their resume and practice their interviewing skills. She’ll head out with them to job interviews to smooth the process of finding work for people who have left everything behind.

“We try to understand the stress and trauma they’ve been through. I try to put myself in their shoes,” says Duginske. “But that’s hard to do as an American because I know I’ll never face anything similar to what they’re going through.”

Some of her toughest days are when she has to explain to someone who may have been a physician in their homeland that their best hope for a job here is in food service. Things like that stick with her.

“This is a matter of human rights. My work every day is trying to afford people basic human rights, like affording food and being able to access health care and pay for housing,” she says. “Simple things people take for granted that everyone deserves.”

In spite of the challenges, it’s gratifying work. “The resettlement process is very stressful,” Duginske says. “I think just knowing these people are looking to us to help them get on their feet and make the transition, it has been life-changing.”

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