Employment Center in Latvia Saves Struggling Family

January 4, 2011


When Oleg was told that the warehouse where he’d been working for 13 years was bankrupt and closing its doors, he felt the air being wrenched from his chest. He had seen many people lose their jobs in Latvia’s economic crisis, but never thought that it would happen to him; his company had been stable for decades. No matter how desperately Oleg tried to remain calm about his future, all he could picture was the disappointment he’d see in his son Eitan’s eyes. For the first time since the boy was born in 1997, Oleg would not be able to support him. “This was the most demoralizing experience of my life,” shares the 40-something-year-old father.

Oleg immediately started searching for new employment, but interview after interview yielded no job. He became increasingly depressed and lay awake at night worrying about providing for his family.

Then Oleg learned about JDC’s Ariel Job Center, housed in the same Riga Jewish Community Center where his son participated in JDC’s Children in Need program. Oleg’s family was already receiving subsidies from that program to pay for food, clothing, and utilities as they struggled to live solely on his wife’s recently slashed income. And now he discovered another JDC supported Jewish community resource, right down the hall.

Everything changed for Oleg and his family once he began his professional training courses at the Ariel Job Center—a model JDC program to retrain and place young professionals whose jobs had been eliminated in Latvia’s financial crisis.

For nearly three months, Russian speaking Oleg studied Latvian and learned data- and word-processing programs as well as how to utilize email and online resources to search for jobs. Ariel professionals also gave Oleg personal help to improve his resume and boost his job interview skills—especially his confidence and communication.

Bolstered by this new knowledge, Oleg successfully landed a job overseeing retail distribution at Latvia’s leading home electronics warehouse. Now he studies English and is continuing to grow professionally through Ariel. At the same time, Oleg’s “refreshing” experience with caring and skilled staff at Ariel inspired him to see the Jewish community as a resource not only for Jewish cultural programs for his son, but for practical and critical guidance for his family’s everyday survival.

Today Oleg puts this renewed appreciation for his community into action by volunteering with JDC’s welfare programs to distribute food, medicine, and other assistance to the neediest Jews in the city—and now more than ever he encourages his son to engage in Jewish activities.

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