Meet Mary Hliang…Refugee and New Business Owner

During the initial resettlement phase, World Relief DuPage /Aurora [WRDA] focuses on meeting the refugee’s immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter. WRDA is also able to help refugees plan long-term…meet Mary Hliang.

Mary was one of the three original participants in pilot program that led to WRDA receiving the Childcare Microenterprise grant from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement.  The Childcare Enterprise program has two defining goals: give refugee women a business and help other refugee families by allowing both parents to work.

A natural choice for the program, Mary’s love for children began back in her village in Burma where she ran a pre-school, and then as a refugee in Malaysia, where she watched local children.  A teacher by trade, Mary has always provided more than babysitting.

By participating in the pilot program, Mary was able to complete the required state training and receive help writing her business plan.  In addition, the grant program provided Mary with start-up funds for supplies and contributed to the purchase of a van for her business.  Mary hopes to receive her license in February and then open immediately.

The Hliang family was resettled by WRDA in June 2009 and through the IDA savings program, Mary and her husband were able to purchase their first home in August 2012.  Now through the Childcare Enterprise program, Mary is able to return to her love of teaching and provide financially for her family.

According to Rebekah King, WRDA Asset Development Associate, Mary is passionate about her new business, especially the opportunity to work with refugee children.  Once open, Mary hopes to take up to five children and offer a curriculum that will prepare the children for the American school system.

Mary’s advice to other refugee women who might be interested in the program is to “go for it because it is a good thing for everyone.”  The Childcare Enterprise program is exclusively for refugee or asylee women, and all participants must have a high school diploma or GED to be considered for the state license.

WRDA received the Childcare Enterprise grant in October of 2012 and hopes to have 35 women participating in the program by September 2013.

Asset Development

The WRDA Asset Development Department assists refugee clients through three programs designed to help refugees in planning for their financial future:  Individual Development Account (IDA) Program, Childcare Microenterprise program and Ways to Work.

Each program helps the client achieve a financial goal by promoting self-sufficiency and financial literacy.

- Individual Development Account (IDA) Program matches participant savings for the purchase of assets and provides financial literacy. Participants can save for a home, vehicle, education or a microenterprise.
- Ways to Work, in partnership with the Salvation Army Metropolitan Division, provides an affordable car loan designed to help working families access reliable transportation
- Childcare Microenterprise assists female entrepreneurs with starting a childcare business in their home by providing child development training and start-up funds.

When a client is referred to the program, they meet with an asset development counselor to discuss their financial goal and open a savings account.  Then, as the client works towards their objective, they attend training sessions to learn budgeting principals and ways to establish credit.

“Asset Development is a pathway to long-term planning” said Laurel Opal WRDA Senior Asset Development Specialist. According to Opal, there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing clients reach their goal and move towards financial independence.

If you would like to learn more about these programs or know someone who might benefit, contact Laurel Opal, Senior Asset Development Specialist at (630) 462-7566 x1058 or Rebekah King, Asset Development Associate at (630) 462-7566 x1016.

New Citizenship Classes

Each year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services Department awards Citizenship and Integration Grants to nonprofit organizations that serve permanent residents through citizenship instruction and naturalization services. World Relief DuPage/Aurora [WRDA] was selected as a grant recipient for 2012, which will allow WRDA to offering citizenship classes for two fiscal years.

“This grant is highly sought-after and competitive, so we are extremely honored to have received this funding,” said Karen Jealous WRDA Education Director.

The 2010 U.S. Census reports that  18% of the population in DuPage County is foreign born and in Kane County 26% of the population were born outside of the U.S., which shows that there is a clear need for citizen education services.  Furthermore, this grant will allow WRDA to meet the needs of low-income refugee and immigrant clients who are applying for citizenship.

In partnership with area churches, citizenship classes will be held in both Wheaton and Aurora and will be free of charge for those preparing for their naturalization test and interview. According to Jealous, participants can either attend classes twice a week for 12 weeks or be matched with a tutor.  Registration for classes in Wheaton will be held on January 15 and 22 at the First Baptist Church from 7-8 p.m. and in Aurora at First Presbyterian on February 11 and 14 from 7-8 p.m.

Volunteers are needed to help prepare these students for their naturalization interview, which tests both their English language ability and their knowledge of U.S. history and government.   Volunteer training for Classroom Aides and Tutors is scheduled for January 19 and April 27 in Wheaton and February 9 and May 18 in Aurora.  To volunteer, contact Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist at or (630) 462-7566 X 1046.

New Ways to Volunteer with WRDA

With the start of new programs, there are also new ways to volunteer!

  • Citizenship Classroom Aide
  • Citizenship Tutor
  • Event Planning Assistant
  • Transportation Assistant
  • Speakers Bureau Member

According to Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist, one of the benefits of volunteering with WRDA is that you can serve in more than one area. In fact, three of the above positions (Event Planning Assistant, Transportation Assistant and Speakers Bureau Member) are considered “pool” opportunities, meaning that once you complete the training you can commit based on your schedule.

Another new addition to our volunteer program is the WRDA Volunteer Orientation Disc. This CD/ROM contains a variety of resources that empower both the volunteer, and by extension, the clients.   The information can be downloaded to your computer or consulted as needed.

For more information on these and other ways you can use your talents at WRDA, or to obtain your Volunteer Orientation Disc, Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist at or (630) 462-7566 X 1046.