Witnessing the suffering of refugees who have been uprooted from their homelands and their careers can be heartwrenching.
“It’s disturbing for us when we see someone who was trained as a surgeon working at a supermarket here or doing valet parking,” said Eduardo Chávez, director of MDC’s REVEST program, an organization devoted to assisting area refugees. “But we work hard to help these clients reach their goals and get whatever kind of assistance they need, so at the end of the day, MDC is making a huge difference in these people’s lives.”
REVEST, which is an acronym for Refugee/Entrant Vocational Education, Services and Training, is now celebrating its 15th year at MDC. With four locations in Miami, the organization makes English language skills and specialized vocational training available to refugees in the region.
Since its inception in 1999, REVEST has served more than 37,000 students from nations such as Cuba, Haiti, Colombia and Venezuela. Current enrollment stands at just more than 3,000 students per semester throughout the four centers, with about 90 percent of the students engaged in Vocational English for Speakers of Other Languages and the remainder in vocational studies.
The program is practical at its core; students not already employed must be actively seeking work through local employment agencies to qualify. Interest in this popular program keeps growing, and there continue to be insufficient spaces for all who need help and apply to become participants.
“We almost always hit capacity before the semester starts,” Chávez said. “REVEST has enabled so many people to start their lives over again. We just wish we had the resources to help even more individuals than we do now.”