“I feel like I’ve gone from barely surviving to thriving,” said the older of the two, whose name is pronounced Jo-el.
Enoch, 25, and Joel, 32, were born in Birmingham, Alabama, and moved to Tanzania, their parents’ homeland, as small children, only to embark on a remarkable journey that allowed them to soar to new heights.
They landed back in America after safety became an issue. A large group of robbers, armed with guns and machetes, attacked the family home in Tanzania. None of the family was hurt in the attack, which the brothers said was uncharacteristic in Tanzania. A preacher – who was visiting and thought by the robbers to be head of the household – was struck in the head with a machete but survived.
In America, they graduated from high school, attended college, and were living in the Atlanta area and contemplating the future when Joel heard about City of Refuge and Jeannie Ross.
Ross runs the nonprofit’s job training and workforce development program. She also administers a $5.4 million, four-year grant that City of Refuge received from the U.S. Department of Labor to provide job training for the underemployed and unemployed in the in-demand fields of computer coding and cybersecurity.
Joel signed up for the inaugural nine-month cybersecurity class that started in August 2021 and ended in May 2022. Enoch opted to enroll in the nonprofit’s four-month boot camp in coding.
“I knew how to use a computer, and that was about it,” Joel said. “Something told me just take a chance. What could it hurt? It was just one of those decisions where you just act on faith.”
The journey was arduous, with classes running Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by several more hours of study. At nights, often to midnight, and on weekends, both men would drive for a food delivery service.
Persistence paid off, particularly for Joel. He passed the test to be certified to work in cybersecurity on the third try and was hired by Delta in May of 2022, within a week of graduating from the program. Delta actually offered him the job two months earlier, but he asked if the company could wait so he could finish what he started.
He became the first Delta hire from the program.
Ross said both brothers emerged as shining stars among the program’s first 70 graduates, including seven who were snapped up by Atlanta-based Delta.
“They are rock stars” and never missed a class, she said.
Ross said the program has been transformational for many of the students.
“We have had people come in saying they make no more than $300 a week cleaning houses and now are making close to six figures,” she said.
That is the mission of City of Refuge: to help people attain access to opportunities they haven’t had before, Ross said.
Both men said they considered the programs at City of Refuge life-changing.
Enoch said the program taught him self-confidence and the soft skills that he needed to work with others and as a team.
Joel said it gave him a new outlook.
“Before, I had a scarcity mindset. Now, I have an abundance mindset,” Joel said. “The world is my oyster… even though I’m a vegan.”
Enoch and Joel both have plans to give back to the people in Tanzania and to assist their father in his missionary work there.
That can happen, they said, thanks to the free flights that Delta offers its employees.
“The perks of the job are great, but the position God has put me in is even greater,” Joel said.
Space is still available for the next classes at City of Refuge’s Tech Transformational Academy. For information: cityofrefugeatl.org/tech-academy.
HOW TO HELP
Learn more about Atlanta’s City of Refuge, a faith-based nonprofit that helps individuals and families transition out of crisis, by visiting cityofrefugeatl.org.