Goodwill, United Way help Ugandan immigrant find a home

Goodwill, United Way help Ugandan immigrant find a home
Rhonda Edgerton

Almost seven years to the day since she first came to Wayne County from Uganda, Florence Baseke, who is profoundly deaf, moved into her first apartment in Wooster. The move was made possible through the assistance and support of Goodwill Industries of Wayne and Holmes Counties and the United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties.

                        

Almost seven years to the day since she first came to Wayne County from Uganda, Florence Baseke, who is profoundly deaf, moved into her first apartment in Wooster. The move was made possible through the assistance and support of Goodwill Industries of Wayne and Holmes Counties and the United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties.

Communicating through writing, Baseke said, “I feel good to have a place of my own to live with my hopes.”

It has been a long and difficult path for Baseke, a participant in the Workplace Connections program at Goodwill Industries, funded by United Way. Originally from Uganda, Baseke grew up in an environment of fear and uncertainty, constantly worried about gender-based violence, the modern-day slave trade and starvation. She also is profoundly deaf and lacked support and education in her youth to help her navigate through life's struggles.

Baseke survived the harsh conditions of her childhood and grew up to travel the world, working with deaf support organizations. Later faced with a life or death decision, Florence left her family and fled to the United States.

Signing the lease on a first apartment can be exciting, giving a new sense of freedom and independence, but for 62-year-old Baseke, it means a great deal more. For many years she has dreamed of a life on her own and a future where she can help others.

Now her dreams have started to become her reality.

"Florence had a job when she joined Goodwill's Workplace Connections program, but unfortunately, she was unable to support herself on that income alone," said her case manager at Goodwill, Jennifer Lake. "Florence knew reaching her goal of independence would be difficult, facing challenges with transportation and language barriers, and she knew she would require a GED and training to make her more marketable for higher paying jobs, so we got to work."

Keeping her goals in mind, Baseke eagerly works with Aspire, the adult literacy and education program at the Wayne County Schools Career Center, toward obtaining her GED. She also takes job skills and career courses at Goodwill and works with Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland for help with citizenship matters.

Baseke has made great strides toward improvement. Goodwill and United Way came together to help Baseke move into her new apartment, and the two organizations are helping her get set up for success by purchasing supplies and services such as an internet connection for job searching, renter's insurance, some essential furniture, an adaptive doorbell and more. Volunteers helped load and unload her belongings and assist with whatever was needed to get her settled and finally feeling at home in her very own place.

“Florence is one of the reasons we work so hard to raise money for our community. When you give to United Way, you are supporting a person’s journey to a better life," said Katie Koglman, executive director of United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties. “Her story shows the resilience of people and the strength of our network of nonprofits. I couldn’t be more proud of our community."

“I want to be a deaf woman who can read and write and think about other people and their situations," Baseke said, "and how we can all work together for change.”


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