World Refugee Day: Swissôtel Advocates for Refugees


Swissôtel Director of Housekeeping and a current housekeeping
employee share tips and tricks with students.

There are 70 million displaced people on the planet right now – and only a small percentage of the world’s refugees receive the chance to rebuild their lives a new country. For refugees who make it to the United States, the pressure to become self-sufficient comes on fast – as government benefits provided to refugees dry up after only three months in-country. As one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in Chicago, Heartland Alliance is recognizing partners who have stood with refugees as they rebuild their lives – partners like Swissôtel Chicago, a longtime employer and educator that has helped refugees find living wage jobs in the hospitality industry for 7 years.

“Chicago is a city of immigrants. As a welcoming city, we take refugee resettlement very seriously,” said Nancy Callahan, Heartland Alliance Refugee Vocational trainer. “It takes a lot of work to rebuild your life in a new country, especially after the traumas of life as a refugee. Swissôtel Chicago understands the value that new Americans bring to the table, and have been an incredible advocate for refugees looking to find success through hard work.”

Within three months, the federal resources allotted to refugees come to an end. By that time, refugees need to find a home, begin learning a new language, and – most importantly – find a source of income. With so many barriers, it can often be quite difficult to find work that can support resettlement for an entire family. Since 2012, Swissôtel Chicago has assisted the Refugee and Immigrant Community Services (RICS) program at Heartland Alliance in building the skillsets of hardworking refugees.

“Our passion is connecting hearts all over the world. Partnering with Heartland Alliance gives Swissôtel Chicago the opportunity to connect with different cultures, build a diverse team and grow our family globally. Seeing the passion our 25 Heartland alumnus have to grow within our family inspires me to continue to support this worthwhile organization”. Ted Selogie, General Manager, Swissôtel Chicago.


Ruth Kidane, Front Desk Coordinator, Swissôtel Chicago


Through this unique partnership, Heartland Alliance leverages a highly skilled and team of hospitality workers to train refugees in customer services within our unique training facility. Within six weeks, participants are connected with businesses like Swissôtel Chicago, who have helped build the training curriculum, give tours and trainings at hotel properties, and ultimately employ participants. With a 90% employment rate, and jobs that often start off at $19 an hour or more, the training is changing the lives of our newest Chicagoans. For people like Ruth Kidane, Swissôtel Chicago and Heartland Alliance have provided unparalleled opportunity.

“Going through the hospitality program with Heartland Alliance opened a new opportunity to start a career. Swissôtel Chicago gave me a family when I didn’t have one. They supported me, developed me and opened my eyes to what a career could look like. In my short time here, I began working in housekeeping and after 8 months was promoted to Front Office. I encourage others to have an open mind when participating in RICS. Embrace any opportunity you are given because you never know where it may lead”.