As a recent new citizen, Faratiana started volunteering with New AP to help other brand-new citizens register to vote, just down the street from our office at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. “It’s easy,” she shares. “It’s a way to connect people and lead to your passion.”
Faratiana likes going back to USCIS where she and her husband were sworn in just last year. When people go through their naturalization ceremony, it’s a happy moment. She likes to greet them with the voter’s registration sign to congratulate them and help them register.
She believes that it’s really important for people to vote. “You can make a decision to vote for something. That’s why I was interested in helping people and I think it’s a good thing to give back to the United States.” She sees that every volunteer opportunity offers not only a way to give back but also a chance to grow her network and gain transferrable skills.
Faratiana and her husband’s journey to the U.S. began over a decade ago. She met her husband Tsiry when they were studying Engineering at the private university Institut Superieur Polytechynique de Madagascar (ISPM) in their home country of Madagascar. While she was studying in the software program, he was studying in the hardware program. After they met (and possibly because they met), Tsiry switched to the software program. They interned together at an airline company, soon after completed their Bachelor’s degrees and Faratiana immediately found work in her field at a software company.
According to Faratiana, Madagascar is a beautiful country, but it is a poor country and there is a lot of corruption in government. Many Malagasy natives seek opportunities elsewhere. In 2008 she and her (now) husband applied for a diversity visa through the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program. During the two years of processing required, they had a son. They were thrilled to be approved for the program, and all three made their journey to the United States in 2010. Faratiana and Tsiry anticipated bringing their specialized skills to America, where there is high demand for IT talent.
There are few people from Madagascar in Georgia – Faratiana estimates 16 to 20 as she has connected them all by coordinating a social media group. (She says that people she meets often know her country only by the Disney movie of the same name. She has even been asked if people there live in trees!)
She and Tsiry found that getting work in the IT field here is not the same as back home. Language for them has been the greatest barrier. While the native language of Madagascar is Malagasy, French is the official language for education and business. Even though Faratiana and Tsiry also learned English back home – and her English is very good – they have found that the barrier when English is not your first language is still significant.
Knowing that an IT job may be challenging upon arrival, they both immediately sought lower skilled work to start paying their way. Tsiry found a part-time job and Faratiana worked as a nanny. After a year, Tsiry enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College and was able to pay in-state tuition.
Their family has grown to four: their daughter will soon turn three. Child care led to additional hardship in finding work. A member of Faratiana’s church recommended that she seek help with vocational counseling, and she ultimately found our Forward program. Faratiana says that she and her husband work very hard to achieve their goals. While there continue to be challenges, they see progress and never give up.
She has just completed her first month in Forward and is now anticipating being matched with a mentor in her field. About overcoming barriers, she says: “God is with us and we move step by step. Not as we like, but step by step, always moving forward.” Most of their family is still in Madagascar, and they do what they can to help them, too.
Some people say to me, ‘focus on this [software] because you need to make money’. I am a religious Christian person, and I think that God sent me to do the things he thinks I will do well. Even if I do it without money, God sent me to do it and I will do it.”