Lancaster Chamber Lancaster Chamber

Discover: 3 Inspiring Immigration Stories

Events & Programs
June 19 2019
We recognize that there’s strength in a diverse community and the experience of a variety of backgrounds and skills to ultimately enhance our community and our businesses. For over 250 years, Lancaster county has been a haven for new Americans who bring their unique talents and skills to our workforce.

We have partnered with New American Economy and other local organizations to release the New American Economy Immigration Report, which outlines the significant contributions of our foreign-born neighbors on the Lancaster County economy and the community.

Check out some inspiring stories below and see the positive impact happening right here in our business community!


Fernando trained at culinary school in Cuba. After working as a chef there for a few years, he became determined to escape to the U.S. by boat. Several attempts resulted in capture by Cuban authorities and jail time. But on the 8th attempt, he was successful! Speaking no English, he made his way to relatives in Lancaster County. He struggled to learn English on his own and at evening classes with little success until he was paired with a tutor at Literacy Council of Lancaster.

Over the years, he has advanced through a series of chef positions in Lancaster, including Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, and now catering chef at Willow Valley Communities.

He loves to bring a Cuban influence to Italian food, two cultures in which seafood plays an important role in the cuisine. Fernando lives in Lancaster with his wife, Ashley, and their son, Logan.

Alain Martinez was a sound engineer for the popular Cuban band, the Buena Vista Social Club. He traveled the world with the band before escaping from Fidel Castro’s repressive regime and arriving in Lancaster in 2015. He is an employment specialist at Church World Service working with employers to help fill their workforce gaps. He works with refugees to create resumes, accompany them on interviews, as well as assist them during orientation and onboarding to ensure a successful match. 

His son Alvaro, also a refugee, graduated from McCaskey High School in 2018 and is attending Thaddeus Stevens School of Technology on scholarship.

Marie Claire arrived just a few short years ago as a refugee through the United States Reception and Placement Program (USRP) of CWS Lancaster. She came with her father, his wife and her siblings. Her family had high ambitions when they arrived in the U.S. All the children went to school, their father got a job, they worked closely with a family mentor supplied by CWS Lancaster, and all had the will and motivation to succeed.

Marie Claire graduated from McCaskey High School and went on to continue her education, studying nursing in Maryland. She is very active on campus, and because of her successes so early in life, CWS introduced her to Malala Yousafzai in 2017 when she visited Lancaster. It was here that Malala saw something special in Marie Claire and invited her to be an ambassador with the Malala Fund; speaking up for girls education and its importance in the world. Last fall Marie Claire spoke with Malala at the UN General Assembly in NYC. You can see Marie Claire’s story on Malala’s website.

She continues to be passionate about education for girls, and the importance of equality. Ultimately she wants to become a nurse and share her medical skills with her home country where so many face violence and are currently in need.

Explore our full immigration and workforce strategy here for more information. 

By investing in the Lancaster Chamber and our mission, you are investing in initiatives like our immigration integration plan. We are dedicated to equipping, serving, and representing business in Lancaster to create a prosperous, and sustainable, business landscape for now and the future.

Find out how you can become an investor and help us with our mission. Visit the website or call (717) 397-3531.

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Lancaster Chamber
115 East King Street
Lancaster, PA 17602
Tel: (717) 397-3531
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