Staff Spotlight: Dzemal Hamzic

Staff Spotlight

Dzemal Hamzic will celebrate 26 years at CAMBA in our Workforce Development program in late March. CAMBA’s Workforce Development provides low-income people, immigrants, refugees, human trafficking victims, those at risk of homelessness, opportunity youth, and others with employment, training, resettlement, and financial counseling. As with all our programs, CAMBA seeks dedicated staff, like Dzemal, who have both the experience and compassion needed to engage community members in crisis, giving them the support they need to create their own success and path forward.

Dzemal graduated from the Faculty of Law in Mostar, Bosnia, where he worked as a journalist and Editor-in-Chief at a local newspaper, Sloboda (Freedom). During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina he served as Director and Editor-in-Chief at Radio Bosnia and Herzegovina – War Studio Mostar. He was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp. He came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1994. His background, involvement, and commitment to the Bosnian community helped him to find his position at CAMBA. Dzemal started as a Career Advisor and Job Developer working with refugees. He was later promoted to Program Manager of Refugee Resettlement before becoming the Program Director of Workforce Development.

“Looks like all my life prepared me for working at CAMBA. Jurist by education, journalist by vocation, and someone who personally understands the experience of arriving in the United States as a refugee. When I arrived in New York, I first worked in a perfume factory where the working conditions were awful. I was fortunate to meet Mila Santos, a great teacher, in an ESL class in Astoria who introduced me to CAMBA and the agency’s services.

One of my most memorable experiences working for CAMBA was when the U.S. State Department…. (Read More) came for a monitoring visit. Knowing that some resettlement sites in the U.S. were struggling with their programs, we offered suggestions and solutions for a number of problems. After their visit, the U.S. State Department contracted me to go to Europe to share CAMBA’s best practices in counseling newly arriving refugees and helping them succeed. For this assignment, the State Department sent me to the refugee processing program based in Germany and Croatia.
I showed them how CAMBA works with clients – and suggested how to improve their programs. They were sending young people to counsel refugees from all over the world with a very general “Cultural Orientation” curriculum. Most of the refugees from the Balkans had been through traumatic experiences just weeks prior, sometimes including torture. The refugees needed to know that when they were relocated to America as documented refugees, they would not live in a refugee settlement camp, but rather with Americans from all cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds. They also needed to learn a wide range of practical skills to reach their “dream jobs.” I knew that with proper guidance and support, such dreams were possible.
The 90’s were a time of intense paranoia, discrimination and misinformation about HIV. Refugees were sent for health screenings before leaving for U.S. Immigration Centers. In some countries, if refugees were found to be HIV-positive, they could be sent to prison. I learned this while working at CAMBA, which was the first nonprofit in the U.S. to accept HIV+ refugees for resettlement. I remember holding one of the babies of an HIV+ refugee born in the U.S. as part of this program. Fortunately, the baby was spared the virus. It made me so proud to be a small part of CAMBA’s work. If that family hadn’t made it to the U.S., it is unlikely they would have survived.”

The difficult circumstances Mr. Hamzic endured imbued him with incredible empathy, and the drive and passion to help others. He also knows that in America, hard work can achieve dreams. Since he joined CAMBA, over 10,000 refugees from 52 countries have been successfully resettled. This is CAMBA “Where You Can,” and we recognize how fortunate we are to have staff who are such extraordinary role models for our clients.