Alberto Marino had a good life in Venezuela. He had a strong network of family and friends, and an accomplished career.
But violence broke out and Alberto knew he needed to flee his home if he was going to survive. There wasn’t time to deliberate.
“At 33, I left behind my family, my whole career,” recalls Alberto. “I came to the U.S. escaping for my life.”
He boarded a flight to the U.S. with plans to apply for asylum. He brought a suitcase and a few hundred dollars and hopes for safety.
Once in the U.S., Alberto worked through the asylum process. “To apply for political asylum is not easy. You have to prove a credible fear for your life.” Alberto had plenty of proof to back up his case, and finally after a year, he got a work permit.
Alberto applied for several jobs and began driving for an auto parts company. “These were survival jobs first,” he explains. He had ambition, and longed for more meaningful work, but knew he needed to improve his English.
He worked hard to improve his English, and not long after, Alberto responded to a job posting with Catholic Charities for a position as a refugee case manager.
He got the job and found his life’s passion.
As someone who had been forced to flee, Alberto understood intimately the challenges recently resettled refugees face: the shock of being in a new country and a new culture, and the desire to find work to support themselves and their families and contribute to their new communities.
Through this job, Alberto helped many people return to the type of work they did in their home countries. He helped a doctor from Cuba rebuild her credentials and career in medicine by registering her in a certified nursing assistant program. An engineer he helped started over as a mechanic and eventually worked his way back to an engineering career at Boeing.
Witnessing the resilience of resettled refugees gave Alberto hope that new lives could be made in the U.S. He was determined to continue to be a part of this important work.
Today, Alberto is the Senior Diversity Officer for the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA). This position allows him to promote diversity within the workforce at WMATA and continue helping people find meaningful employment.
Alberto also volunteers as head of Workforce Development for the Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he “provides the guidance, help and training [for refugees] to be successful in the U.S.” It’s not just the mentoring that keeps him going. “It makes me happy when people finally get a job, it [shows] that we are really making a difference in that individual’s life.”
About the crisis in Venezuela:
More than 3 million people have fled the country – the largest exodus in recent Latin American history. Every day, more children, women and men flee due to violence, insecurity and threats and lack of food, medicine and essential services. They need urgent protection. With your help, more refugees will have the opportunity to build a peaceful life and give their family a bright future.