Every summer, several hundred international students travel to Provincetown on Cape Cod for summer work. They make money while they're there, of course, but they also get to experience living in the United States. For dozens of students this year, the highlight of that cultural experience was a taste of true kindness.
For Stoyan Georgiev, a 19-year-old from Burgas, Bulgaria, it happened not long after he landed in Boston. Georgiev was excited. He had a place to stay and a job lined up at a local restaurant in town. As he was talking to another student on the ride from the airport, the driver overheard him and told him that the restaurant had burned down in a fire only hours earlier.
"My friend was waiting for me when I arrived and he said, 'We have no job,'" Georgiev tells MNN. "I texted my parents and said 'I arrived and I'm safe but the bad news is I have no job.' They thought I was kidding."
Fire had engulfed several businesses at the foot of a local pier, including the restaurant where Georgiev had a job waiting. With his visa, he and other displaced students had only a short time to find work or they would have to return home.
Town to the rescue
The businesses in Provincetown hire hundreds of international workers to help with the busy summer tourist season. (Photo: Ted Eytan/flickr)
Realizing the impact the fire had caused, local business people immediately stepped up. Some started a crowdfunding site to raise money for workers who had lost personal items like cellphones, glasses and backpacks in the blaze. Others offered loans for those who needed cash for essentials.
Fred Latasa-Nicks and his husband, Steven, opened up their restaurant, Strangers & Saints, for a pop-up job fair, sponsored by the Provincetown Business Guild. They spread the information on social media and by word of mouth. About 20 students showed up, with varying English abilities and few funds.
"You can imagine if you were in a foreign country and you had no job and no connections and no money," says Latasa-Nicks. "We just provided a place for people to connect."
When people came into the restaurant, he created a spreadsheet to keep track of each person's needs. Employers stood up and announced what kinds of jobs they had, then they spread around the room so job seekers could go talk to them.
"We met Stoyan and he began to tell us his story," says Latasa-Nicks. "He was articulate and nice. We created a job around him and took him on as an employee."
Georgiev now does office support, all-around restaurant work and also helps with social media.
Owners of restaurants, cleaning services, bed and breakfasts and landscape companies all showed up that day and made connections. Within a day or two, the visiting workers all had jobs, homes and the items they needed.
"It was really sort of a no-brainer. You put the word out there to show up, which people just did," says Latasa-Nicks. "For (the students) it was not only that we were helping them get a job but the fact that people quickly pulled together to help them. They were touched by the fact that we were strangers and they were in a strange town and they needed help and we helped them."
Georgiev says this certainly wouldn't have happened in Bulgaria, where you are left to deal with problems on your own. He's surprised, but grateful.
"Everything's amazing," he says. "Everything bad that happens to you probably happens for a reason. I'm working hard. Everything's fine. I'm pretty much enjoying my summer right now."