Transportation as a challenge to refugee resettlement

Two client stories obtained by case managers highlight the challenges newly arrived refugees and immigrants face by not having reliable transportation when they first arrive. You can help make the lives of these clients, and others like them, easier by donating this #GivingTuesday to our refugee transportation fund!


Ahmad learned how to use public transportation from his case manager, Jillian. LSSNCA case managers demonstrate to newly arrived families how to take the bus from their homes to our offices and back. Case managers also provide their clients with bus cards and a tutorial on how to use the GPS on their phones. Luckily for Ahmad, he already spoke and read English and was able to understand the different bus routes and schedules, city and county locations, as well as, how to order a Lyft or Uber when necessary. Still it took Ahmad about a week to understand how to navigate the US transportation system. 

Once he started working, Ahmad would take the bus and two trains for his 2-3 hour commute to work. He shared with us his memory of missing the last bus one night on his way home and having to walk that portion of his commute – he didn’t arrive home until nearly 3am. Taking the bus is more affordable despite the inconvenience and he only uses rideshare for emergency needs. 

Since his arrival in April, Ahmad has bought a car and is thankful that he can get around more easily and eliminate much of the time from his commute. According to Ahmad, in Afghanistan, taking the bus was simpler, drivers just called out the destinations for riders. He believes taking public transportation is especially difficult for Afghan females, due to the increased likelihood of language barriers. 

Nowadays, Ahmad drives his wife everyday to attend ESL classes while he watches their toddler. Once they get childcare, his wife will be able to take the bus to ESL classes and he will take on extra hours at work. His wife has learned to take the bus and has taught other Afghan women with low-English proficiency and who accompany her to ESL classes.


Fatemeh and her mother Miriam recently arrived last month from Turkey along with her two younger siblings. Like Ahmad, they received public transportation orientation within their first week from their case manager. Despite no proficiency in English, they both learned to take the bus and use the metro by using their GPS in Farsi. They find the metro system here in the DMV much easier to understand compared to Turkey. Additionally, they say here the bus schedules are more accurate and bus cards can be recharged more easily than in Turkey. 

Since Fatemeh and Miriam are not working yet, much of their expenses are used for transportation to attend ESL classes, which is their top priority and they attend daily. However, they would greatly appreciate the opportunity to see more of their new home, to visit parks and D.C. monuments, and travel to nearby cities. They are grateful that their apartment is conveniently located near the LSS office, bank, grocery store, college where they take ESL classes, PG Plaza shopping mall, and Prince George’s metro station.

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