In the early morning hours of February 24, 2022, Daria Sedihi-Volchenko was startled awake by a combination of sounds from incoming missiles and anti-missile systems. Her house in Kyiv, Ukraine shook. She rushed toward the basement to seek shelter and turn on the news: The war had begun. Days passed, and Kyiv was surrounded. She had to decide between sheltering in place or trying to escape, but both options involved danger and uncertainty.
Ultimately, Sedihi-Volchenko attempted to flee by car. She needed to cross the Dnipro River to go west, which proved difficult because most of the bridges were rigged with mines. Gasoline was scarce, but she secured enough for the journey southward and was able to cross in Cherkasy. After driving 40 hours straight through threatening terrain, she finally arrived in Moldova and then drove another four days to reach Poland.
“I was very lucky—I didn’t encounter a single bullet or a single mine. Somehow the car was fine. I survived. Now, I have to start from scratch, and I want to help other Ukrainians rebuild their lives,” said Sedihi-Volchenko.
In Poland, buoyed by the strength and energy of her new community, she began to rebuild her life. Sedihi-Volchenko now works at Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a program manager for ITSkills4U, which provides training and support to Ukrainians who are interested in expanding their job opportunities in non-IT roles, switching to IT, or advancing their IT career.
Sedihi-Volchenko’s story is one of many that refugees are facing, and Amazon is committed to helping them tell a new one. Amazon is committed to hiring at least 5,000 refugees—like Sedihi-Volchenko—in Europe over the next three years and will continue working toward a goal to provide training to 10,000 Ukrainians through the ITSkills4U program by AWS. The company announced the commitment at the Tent European Business Summit, organized by The Tent Partnership for Refugees. The commitment expands on a previously announced pledge to hire at least 5,000 refugees in the U.S. by the end of 2024.
The Tent European Business Summit brought together dozens of companies to discuss the refugee crisis in Europe and highlight the role companies play in helping refugees successfully integrate in their new communities. Speaking at the event, J. Ofori Agboka, vice president of People eXperience and Technology for Global Operations, encouraged the business community to unite in support of refugees. “We have an opportunity to leverage our collective scale and a responsibility to serve communities around the world who need us now more than ever,” Agboka said. “Let’s act swiftly, and let’s act together.”
Read Agboka's full speech at the end of this article.
Agboka joined Tent’s U.S. Advisory Council in February, with senior leaders from Hilton, Airbnb, Xerox, and Pfizer, among others.
Amazon’s Welcome Door program
The Welcome Door program, which launched in the U.S. in April 2022 to provide tailored immigration support to Amazon’s refugee and humanitarian-based immigrant employees, is now available in Germany, Poland, and Australia. Benefits vary by country based on need, but may include:
- Financial reimbursement for immigration-related processes
- Access to self-help guides on settling in a new community
- Free legal resources to help navigate immigration-related questions, with the option to connect with immigration experts
- Customized mentorship to support each employee’s unique situation
- Training for leaders and HR team members on how to best support displaced people in the workplace
- Handheld translation apps for one-to-one communication
Displaced people also will have access to skills training and education benefits, including English proficiency courses and some local language courses, through Amazon Career Choice. Career Choice, which offers prepaid tuition and industry certifications, is available to eligible employees in 14 countries after a minimum employment period.
World Refugee Week
There are currently more than 35 million refugees worldwide. That number grows to more than 110 million with the inclusion of internally displaced people—more than 1% of the total global population. The number of refugees has doubled over the past 10 years and will continue to increase, with an expected 1.2 billion people displaced globally by 2050 due to climate change and natural disasters.
To mark World Refugee Week from June 19-26, hundreds of Amazon employees are volunteering to pack more than 50,000 hygiene kits for displaced people, which will be distributed through local charity partners across Europe. In addition, Amazon is organizing a volunteer fair with long-standing charity partners in the UK, where employees will have a chance to sign up to become volunteers, donate to charity partners’ causes and learn more about the ongoing efforts of charities who assist refugees to rebuild their lives.
- Read remarks from J. Ofori Agboka at the Tent European Business SummitHello, I’m Ofori Agboka, and I serve as Vice President of People Experience and Technology for Global Operations at Amazon. I’m honored to be here with you all today.
This day is personal to me. My father is from Ghana, West Africa. He moved to the U.S. for opportunity and a better life. While he was able to come to the U.S. of his own free will, we don’t all have that choice. From his experience, I witnessed firsthand what it’s like to rebuild your life in a new country, and how crucial it is to receive the support you need, when you need it. I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone here today for the work you are doing to provide that support and help refugees start a new, better life for themselves and their families.
Today Amazon is announcing a commitment to hire at least 5,000 refugees in Europe by the end of 2026. This is an extension of the commitment we made last September, to hire at least 5,000 refugees in the U.S. by the end of 2024. We strive to hire people from different backgrounds, because it’s the right thing to do and because we believe that the diversity of our workforce makes us a stronger company. I’d like to thank Tent for bringing the business community together and challenging us to do more.
We are also working toward a goal to provide training for 10,000 Ukrainians globally, including refugees, via an AWS program called ITSkills4U. ITSkills4U provides virtual and in-person training to people who are interested in expanding their job opportunities in non-IT roles, switching to IT, or advancing their IT career.
Finally, I’m proud to share that Welcome Door, our benefits program for refugee employees, is now available in Germany, Poland, and Australia. The benefits we offer vary by country based on need, but in Germany and Poland they include:
· Self-help guides for settling into a new community
· Free legal resources to help navigate immigration-related questions, and access to immigration experts
· Customized mentorship to support each employee’s unique situation
We will keep working, and keep learning from you all. I’m excited by what this talented and committed group of people can achieve to help improve the lives of refugees. We have an opportunity to leverage our collective scale and responsibility to serve communities around the world who need us now more than ever. Let’s act swiftly and let’s act together. Thank you for your time and for your partnership.