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Unemployment Diaries: The reaction

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Vanessa Ennouini, who wrote an unemployment diary, and her husband Mahfoud walk with their daughter Victoria outside their apartment complex. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

The email begins: I just read Margarita Damian's entry. I feel for her. My husband recently lost his job.

It ends: If it is not inappropriate, I would like to send her $300 to help tide her over until she gets her next cleaning job?

In the diaries that several unemployed men and women kept for The Washington Post earlier this month, one theme that repeatedly arose was isolation -- the feeling of trying to stay afloat in remote, unfamiliar waters. But after The Post ran three stories in the newspaper featuring the diaries, along with posting the transcripts of each in full here on Story Lab, I received dozens of emails like the one above from readers who wanted to help, or at least let the diary-keepers know they weren't alone.

Some people wrote to offer jobs, from cleaning to consulting positions. One such email read: I am in the process of hiring an assistant for a few hours a week. I would like to contact some of the people highlighted in your series.

Others wanted to give money or goods that might be needed. One man wrote: If she hasn't gotten one already, would it be possible for me to pay for a haircut for Vanessa?

But many of the emails were from men and women who were either in the same position as those featured, unemployed and frustrated with the job market, or had been there not long ago.

One woman wrote: My husband was laid off in October, a week before we got married, and two months after we bought a house together. As a result, we are starting off our marriage on a very different foot than we expected. I wonder if you would consider accepting submissions from the spouses/partners of unemployed people for this feature? It is almost as difficult to be the one going to work and struggling to pay all the bills and living in terror of being the next one to get laid off.

Sue Ducat, who was unemployed for several months this year, recalled the diary she kept during that time, writing each morning about “ordinary daily happenings that were suddenly different because I was jobless.” She gave examples:

*Letting someone in the library check-out line get ahead of me, because after all, what was my rush to go nowhere?
*Feeling my hands turning to ice during a store credit check (I'd promised to buy my daughter a new bed)
*Attending a school parents meeting one morning and noticing that everyone but me seemed "dressed for success"
*Being summoned for a job interview with two hours notice -- aka Cinderella getting ready for the ball, 2009 style

Amy E. White, who has a master’s degree but described herself as “long-unemployed,” offered this suggestion:

I was wondering if there is a way that the Post could be of (further) help for us long-unemployed, by having a section where people can send in very basic resume information for employers to quickly scout.

For example, mine could be:

Amy E. White
MA: Int'l &Int'cultural Comm- U of Denver
BA: Int'l Affairs- GWU
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer- Romania
Comm. Ast.- Project on National Security Reform
Writ/Edit/ProgSupport/Civics/Polit Edu-NGO exper.
Travel yes 50%,currently in NoVA

I believe this blurb says a decent amount about me, and maybe could strike someone's interest if only I could get their attention from amongst the 300+ applications for practically every job announced.

By Theresa Vargas  | December 30, 2009; 9:21 AM ET
Categories:  Diaries  
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