Name: Aurore A.
Location: Residence Inn Tempe Downtown/University
Dream destination: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), my country, so that l can show young people who have lost all hope of their future that not all hope is gone. I’d like to bring them joy.
Drink or treat of choice: A fresh juice made with strawberries, bananas and mango, it reminds me of my home country and it’s a great way to start my day.
When war between tribes broke out in her native Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Aurore’s family, from the Nyamulenge tribe, decided to escape in hopes of finding a safer place to start over.
“We walked and walked for miles and miles through bushes and forests, and we would sometimes starve. God was the only hope of surviving,” she recalls about the journey. “Luckily we found ourselves in Zambia where we were welcomed by an organization called UNHCR.”
The UN’s Refugee Agency helped the family settle into the Mayukwayukwa refugee camp, one of the oldest refugee settlements in Africa located in the western province of Kaoma District. They provided them with food, clothing and shelter, but the clinical conditions and access to medication made survival at the camp hard for every family.
Aurore started primary school in the camp and made it to the local high school. Although she completed her high school education, due to her family’s lack of resources she had to stay home and help her parents cultivate the land in order to survive.
“Life was really bad. Sometimes I would sit down and stress thinking of my future, but l also hoped that one day things would go well,” she remembers.
While living in the camp, Aurore learned that the UN’s Refugee Agency that had helped her family move into the camp also helped people in the process of resettling them to other countries like the United States, Sweden, or Finland — she got the process started.
“One day a miracle happened, and we were called to do some interviews,” she says. Eventually and through the initiatives of UNHCRM, her family was granted asylum by the United States’ government. “We felt it was a dream come true to finally get resettled.”
The family went through a process of interviews, medical checkups and cultural orientation classes, and were finally brought to the United States. “We were so amazed by the wonders of the country and confused at the same time but so grateful to our case manager. She welcomed us and helped us out with everything,” she says. After the first week, the family was taken to an International Rescue Committee (IRC), where they scheduled classes for them to learn more about the culture and how to live in the United States, as well as English classes which she felt were really helpful, especially for her parents.
“Bit by bit we got used to how to use certain things like cooking on the stove or using the fridge,” she says. “They also taught us things like how to use a bus, which was really helpful,” she says.
After two months in the country, the IRC office helped them search for jobs, including positions in the housekeeping department at the Residence Inn Tempe Downtown, in Arizona where she and her mother work today.
“l love the hotel and the staff is really welcoming, helpful and caring,” she says. “Our co-workers are so amazing, they’re really good people and they helped us in terms of adjusting to the job and [explaining] how it’s done.”
Today, Aurore looks ahead and sees a bright future for herself and dreams of becoming a nurse.
“l want to be a great example to my fellow refugees out there, l want to inspire them to know that not all hope is lost, and that we can still make it in life.”
Learn more about her exceptional journey and her first job in hospitality in her own words below.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Making beds and cleaning the rooms. I love being able to make a space look nice and inviting for guests. I also really enjoy interacting with the guests and making them feel welcome. It’s very rewarding to be able to provide a great service to everyone who stays with us.
How would you describe your experience as a Marriott associate?[I’ve learned] that working together makes things easier and possible. At Marriott, I felt supported by everyone around me. I felt a sense of belonging and had the opportunity to develop my skills. I have learned so much and gained so much knowledge through the different group activities and training. Every day presented a new challenge and I was able to grow and learn from it.
How would you describe Marriott’s culture?
The company makes employees feel comfortable and welcome. It’s a culture of collaboration and respect and it really encourages diversity and inclusion. Marriott provides a great platform for employees to grow professionally and to be part of something bigger, and it really embraces the differences that each employee brings to the table.
How has Marriott supported your family?
Marriott has supported my family by offering me and my mom a job and good benefits too. We receive regular paychecks, which help us to cover our basic expenses, but Marriott also offers many other benefits such as healthcare, dental care, food benefits, and other employee discounts. This also provides us with a sense of security and safety, which is very reassuring and comforting. We are also getting the chance to grow and learn and that will help us build a better future for ourselves and our family.
How has Marriott helped you feel like you belong?
The way they treat us is the same [as anyone else], there is no discrimination due to color nor race. We are all one family. They include us in activities like dinners, games and special occasions. Their culture of inclusiveness and diversity has really helped me feel like I belong. I am thankful to Marriott for providing me with the opportunity to find safety and stability in a foreign land. Marriott has made me feel welcomed, part of the team and successful in my position.
How has Marriott supported your growth and given you the opportunity to try new things?
It has helped me in terms of courage and hard work, and to move forward with new projects. Marriott has provided me with a professional environment to grow and develop my skills. I have also received personal development opportunities such as language courses and trainings that have allowed me to build my knowledge and confidence in different areas. I also have worked with many different teams, which has helped me learn the importance of collaboration, communication, and teamwork. With the support of my supervisors, I have had the chance to take part in projects and presentations, which has also enabled me to gain leadership skills.
What is your favorite part of working at Marriott?
Always feeling welcomed by everyone and helped in finding ways to reach my goals. Marriott puts a lot of effort into making sure their employees have all the resources they need to succeed. They also focus a lot on diversity and inclusion, which I think is really important, and it makes me feel appreciated and accepted. I always feel like I’m contributing to the success of the company and making a difference in the world.
What advice would you give someone with a similar background to you, who is looking to make a change in their life or career?
To never give up in life and to have self-confidence and work hard to achieve your goal. Believe in yourself and trust that your hard work will eventually pay off, even if it may take longer than you expected. Speak up for yourself and take advantage of any available resources that can help you reach your goals. Don’t be afraid to pursue new opportunities no matter how small they may seem. And most importantly, take the time to define your own success and find a job that is meaningful to you.