MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- Dayanna Vasquez leads the kitchen at Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe on Stone Village Way in Chesterfield County.
The Chesterfield mother was hired at the Midlothian eatery four years ago as a prep cook but has since been promoted to kitchen manager.
However, a few years ago, simply talking to her customers and coworkers was challenging.
Vasquez moved to the United States from El Salvador seven years ago to escape the violence in her native country and to provide her family with a better life.
“I love America and the opportunities we have here,” Vasquez explained.
Her bosses approached Vasquez with an opportunity to learn English and she jumped at the offer.
“They see talent in me and offer me learn English,” Vasquez recalled. “It’s a gift because this doesn’t just help me in my work, but in my entire life.”
Taziki’s CEO Dan Simpson partnered with a company called Voxy Engen that described themselves as a social enterprise that helps immigrant and refugee workers develop and apply critical language skills at work.
“When you recognize the commonality between all of us and realize what a small thing can have such a big impact. That’s rewarding,” Simpson told CBS 6.
Simpson challenged and encouraged other business owners to do the same and help the refugees and immigrants who come to our country for a better life.
“For all of us to do everything we can to just welcome them literally as they move next door to us as neighbors,” he stated. “But also, into jobs and something as simple as encouragement, language — learning the English language helps get them on their way. These are simple things we can do.”
Vasquez fits in her English online classes between her work schedule while raising a 13-year-old daughter.
“She says, ‘Mom, I’m so proud of you,’” she recalled. “And that makes me want more and be better every day.”
Vasquez is now working towards becoming the restaurant’s assistant manager.
She was one of ten employees to learn English through the pilot program.
Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe employs approximately 2,500 people and estimated this program can help hundreds of their employees.