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Austin group helping refugees start on path to getting their commercial driver's license

Global Impact Initiative has 42 refugees, mostly from Afghanistan, signed up for their new CDL training program that just launched this week.

AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan have recently settled here in Austin, as their country was taken over by the Taliban. But moving your family from another part of the world and trying to find a job in a new country can be difficult.

Global Impact Initiative is a nonprofit in Austin that helps refugees get settled and find jobs. They offer English-language classes, help with resumes, have academic mentors for kids and much more. Most recently, they just launched a new program to help people get their CDL, or commercial driver's license.

"If we take the CDL class, we can make more money to support our family, and that'll be really good,” said Sardar Mahmood, who relocated to Austin from Afghanistan with his family in 2020.  

Mahmood is one of 42 refugees, nearly all from Afghanistan, taking part in the new CDL training program.

"I think, as we all know, there's a shortage in this country of qualified drivers,” said Bob Ewigleben, the director of the GII CDL Program.

Ewigleben said that during the two-week course, participants will learn the theory or knowledge portion needed to get their CDL. Then GII will help them to find places to take the driving part of the course and are working with trucking companies to hopefully help find them employment.

"It’s an avenue for them to explore and hopefully, for some, to ultimately obtain employment within the trucking industry,” said Ewigleben.

Mahmood is hoping this can lead to higher pay, compared to his current job as an Uber driver. He has four kids and said that other refugee families have many more kids, and it is very difficult to find housing in Austin.

"In Austin now, rent is really high,” said Mahmood. “You should not approve for the low incomes. That's a real challenge for us. We have to work hard. So that's why I came here to start the course."

This course is completely free to participants, like Mohammad Masood, who came to Austin from Afghanistan in 2019 with his family, including five kids.

He said Afghan refugees, like himself, have a lot of skills that can be used in the community, but they don't have some of the certifications needed in the U.S. or face a language barrier.

"Some of them are doctors, some engineers, some from universities, some people are drivers,” said Masood, speaking of the jobs people had when they were in Afghanistan.

Both Masood and Mahmood said they are thankful for this opportunity and hope to see more programs like this become available for refugees in Austin and across the country.

“This is a very good opportunity for us,” said Masood. “A free opportunity for the people who came from abroad, so I want to get a benefit from this program.”

Just this year, Global Impact Initiative has helped 111 refugees land full-time jobs and helped 369 get part-time jobs in various industries.

If you want to help their cause, you can volunteer, donate on their website, or donate to their GoFundMe they set up for their CDL program.

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