This blog was written by our Grant Partner Lutheran Service in Iowa. We appreciate them sharing some of what they do.

LSI’s Refugee Child Care Business Development Program offers interpreted, approved training and technical assistance to former refugees to start or expand in-home registered child care businesses. From its inception in 2012, and with support from the Iowa Women’s Foundation beginning in 2015, the program has helped more than 170 providers from 16 language groups take steps to become registered child care providers, increasing economic outcomes for themselves, and the hundreds of children and families they provide care for in the greater Des Moines area. 

To celebrate IWF’s child care month, we would like to share some program highlights through the story of one of our successful program graduates, Sama Agar.

Sama has always had a passion for caring for children, and she was committed to building a career as a child care provider.

Sama grew up in Eritrea and lived there until she was 24. But when it was no longer safe to stay in her home country, where she says there was “no peace and no work,” Sama fled to Ethiopia in 2008 and lived in a refugee camp. In the camp, Sama served as a child care provider for infants, toddlers, and young children under age 5.

While she was in Ethiopia, she dreamed of going to the U.S. to start a new life. In 2017, that dream became a reality and she was accepted into the U.S. as a refugee and relocated to central Iowa.

But as a single mom building a foundation for her family in Iowa, Sama struggled to find a balance between caring for her young children – ages 3 and 6 – and working to provide for her family. Meanwhile, she was busy learning English in her limited free time. 

She connected with a friend who told her about LSI Refugee and Immigrant Services. Through LSI, Sama was eligible to participate in the child care training program.

Sama enrolled in the program in 2018 and was able to learn proper child care safety and received support opening her own business as a licensed child care provider. When COVID-19 hit last year, LSI also helped her ensure her business included additional safety precautions. 

Now, Sama cares for five children in her home, allowing more parents in her community to go to work and feel confident knowing their children are cared for by someone who speaks their language and understands their culture. At the same time, Sama can continue caring for her own family while building an in-home business for herself.

“I’m happy to have more kids in my home, and I’m happy to help families,” she says.