Welcome Start: A New Program for A New Start

Written by Jennifer Hernandez
Published April 25, 2024

As one of the most popular refugee resettlement destinations in the country, California is now home to 37% of Afghan refugees and 15% of Ukrainian refugees. Now is as good a time as any to reflect on what we and other community providers are doing as administrators and leaders to help cultivate a sense of home, safety, and acceptance for these refugees.


Veronica Perez, Manager of the Refugee Programs Bureau at the CDSS, explains, “During this time of unprecedented arrivals resettling to our country, it has been imperative that California come together with our partners in local government and with non-governmental organizations to provide new arrivals with access to services.”


To support those displaced by unfortunate circumstances we could never imagine, we are both proud and excited to launch Welcome Start, a program to help them navigate their new lives here in the US. Welcome Start provides essential language, digital and work skills, and life resources to Afghan refugees as well as those seeking asylum from Ukraine through our deeply accessible mobile-learning and coaching platform. With this program, we aspire to lend a helping hand to every individual seeking to find a sense of home and belonging in a new world.

What is Welcome Start?


In collaboration with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), Refugee Program Bureau (RPB), and Immigrant Integration, we’ve brought life to our newest social initiative, Welcome Start. At its core, the Welcome Start program, an expansion of Skills4Life, is geared towards helping refugees cultivate a sense of home, safety, acceptance, and social integration in the US. Specifically designed for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, course content is offered in English, Dari, Pashto, Ukrainian, and Russian while also taking the cultural nuances of their unique lived experiences into account. 

To help make the transition as seamless as possible, eligible refugees in California (Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus Counties) can find course content that teaches basic English, how to find jobs, how to get access to health and social services, work-life balance, English for business, online banking, and a myriad of other essential work and life skills. Lessons are accessible through WhatsApp, the Cell-Ed app, via call-in, or any web browser. Learners are also paired with a culturally competent coach that speaks their language to support their journey. 


“In partnering with Cell-Ed’s Welcome Start program, we believe that the services provided through their digital platform will be instrumental in aiding newcomer families towards self-sufficiency.” — Veronica Perez, Manager with Refugee Programs Bureau, CDSS.


An international move under the best of circumstances is stressful. Without support, access to resources, or even adequate digital skills, the basic human need for a happy and successful life becomes that much more challenging. Thanks to funding from the CDSS, RPB, and Immigrant Integration, the Welcome Start program is completely free to eligible participants.


Calling all community-based organizations that work with Afghan and Ukrainian communities!

Join the mission and help us spread the word! Effective partnerships are critical, and we would like the support of all organizations out there that work with Afghan and Ukrainian communities in California to support us in getting this free Welcome Start program into the hands of those who need it.


If your organization would like to get involved, email us at california@cell-ed.com for more information. 


Achieving better work, life, and health outcomes


Aside from the overarching goal to help Afghan and Ukrainian refugees transition to life in California, the deeper mission is to keep families together and help them become successful, contributing members of society with longevity for their future generations. After all, navigating the uncertainty of displacement is made easier when comforted by the sense of belonging and relatable cultural identity that Cell-Ed aims to provide. 


At Cell-Ed, we’ve launched countless successful social programs that helped over 10 million people achieve better life, work, and health outcomes. We aim to reach, teach, and empower underserved communities with skills development content and resources  that are 100% relevant to their daily lives, from how to deposit checks in the US, to speaking with your doctor, to how to prepare for a job interview. Delivered in digestible bursts, our 3-min lessons help learners gain skills 84% faster with 91% learner satisfaction.

Are you a state or county agency that’s interested in offering Welcome Start in your community? Click below to get started.

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