Making the Most of Change: Marthe's Story

By Jonathan Bash December 27, 2018

Breaking poverty takes multiple strategies – and an affinity for change. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

That’s why Rubicon Programs has developed multiple approaches tailored to meet the needs of individuals, and of different East Bay communities.

In Oakland and Hayward, Rubicon offers job placement and career development services to those working to rise out of unemployment. Marthe is one of these individuals, and she’s striving to break poverty, make change and accomplish the goals she’s set for her life in a new land.

“I escaped violence in my home country of Cameroon,” Marthe says. “My family – my daughter, my grandson, and my sisters, nephews and nieces – brought me to Hayward.”

In Cameroon, Marthe was a nurse in a large hospital. She helped people. She made them well again.

“I like to take care of people,” she says. “I’ve been doing that my whole life. It makes me happy.”

Unfortunately, her back can no longer take the long hours on her feet, picking up patients and moving heavy equipment. She has come to the realization that she’s going to have to make a career change to start earning a living in her new home.

“Before Rubicon, I had been going to adult school to learn English, all while taking care of my grandson, she says. “Then, when I got here, I met with Ms. Celeste. She listened to me and connected me with my Career Advisor, Amabella.”

Marthe and Amabella soon went over her work history and strengths, and talked over her career options. Marthe wanted to continue helping people, but she had to find a workplace that could accommodate her back issues.

Together, they arrived at a solution: a new(ish) career in phlebotomy. As a phlebotomist, she could do similar work – drawing blood from patients – while staying off of her feet.

To become a phlebotomist though, she would need to learn the latest office technology, take phlebotomy classes and get certified.

“I don’t really have much experience with computers,” she adds. “So, I’ve been taking basic computer classes here every Thursday. I’m learning Outlook and Excel.”

All of these courses and certifications take time. In the meantime, she would still need to pay her bills.

Marthe and the Rubicon team decided to first focus on getting her into a more accessible job for the near future, as a caregiver, taking care of children with disabilities. Recently, she has begun applying for positions in this new field.

Amabella has helped her prepare her resume, and has taught her interview skills, as well as tips on how to ace a phone interview. They’ve done mock interviews and she has received one-one-one coaching sessions that have strengthened her soft skills and improved her confidence.

“Amabella makes me feel comfortable,” she says. “I can tell her anything. I can share anything.”

In other words, she meets her where she is.

“Since my first day, I have worried about my accent. But she assured me that it isn’t an issue. She’s an immigrant, too. She knows what I’m going through.”

Marthe is beyond grateful for all of this support.

“I feel more confident. I’m getting over the anxiety of it all.”

Amabella always says, “You’re going to win in that interview!” And it is that enthusiasm that keeps Marthe going as she tackles this sometimes daunting process.

“I’ve never taken care of children with disabilities,” she says. “But I’m eager to learn. And I’m optimistic for the future.”

Help Rubicon continue to break poverty by donating or explore the full participant journey here.