SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A local entrepreneur is on a mission, to help Ukrainians crossing into San Diego find jobs.
When the Russian invasion began, Alina Petrova, 35, who lives in Kiev, was in Portugal on vacation.
“Can’t help. Can’t do anything, so it was really terrible when it started,” Petrova said. “I never had this feeling. You realize you don’t have a home.”
With European countries struggling with the influx of refuges, she decided to travel to the US, spending nearly all of her savings on tickets to Mexico before crossing into San Diego on March 31. An acquaintance is hosting her in Sacramento.
Petrova, an architect by trade, says when she next returns to San Diego, it will be to start an architect job.
“I feel like my dreams come true so unexpectedly. I’m so grateful,” she said.
Petrova, whose application for a work visa will take between three and six months to process, got matched up with her future employer through Jake Risman, a San Diego entrepreneur who has started and sold a handful of technology companies.
A Ukrainian immigrant, he and his wife crossed the border two weeks ago, and helped arrange for food donations and portable bathrooms for the refugees.
“Saw a lot of unplanned confusion on people's faces … They’re not looking for a handout, They’re looking to restart lives. They’re looking to have jobs and be contributing members of society, so we started thinking about what we could do,” Risman said.
Risman tapped into his personal and professional contacts and matched some 30 asylum seekers with potential employers. So far, about six of the Ukrainians have pending job offers once their work visas come through, including Petrova.
“Having a job makes me feel like a normal person. Can bring in my skills,” Petrova said.
Risman says he's partnering with a San Diego-based staffing firm, Eastridge Workforce Solutions, to expand upon his job matching idea. The website, set to launch later this week, will try to place refugees in a wide-range of jobs.
“This opportunity gives me hope I can be part of the community,” Petrova said.
Employers and Ukrainian refugees who are interested in the job placement program are asked to send inquiries to email@example.com.
Risman has started a Gofundme campaign to provide additional assistance for refugees before and after crossing the border, including hotels and legal assistance.