Your cab driver wants a job

Posted: January 10, 2014

AFTER SPENDING some time in Abu Bakarr Saccoh's cab yesterday morning, I was tempted to shepherd as many unemployed and underemployed Philadelphians as I could find to Freedom Taxi #1401.

A ride with this entrepreneurial cabbie from Sierra Leone could really inspire people struggling to find work. And with almost 12,000 Philadelphians losing their unemployment benefits in December, the jobless can use all the inspiration they can get.

Philadelphians never know what they're going to find when they get in a cab: raunchy, ripped seats, the wafting odor of your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine or a blasting radio competing with a driver shouting on a cellphone.

But I'm betting that unless you've gotten into 43-year-old Saccoh's (immaculate) cab, you've never seen a resume inserted into the partition window (something that technically isn't allowed but that Saccoh says is worth risking a fine). Or heard the accounting lectures that Saccoh streams from his cellphone through the cab speakers.

Saccoh's is not so much a cab as a home office on wheels, where he devotes every second he can to his job search.

And part of that devotion is that resume that puts it all out there: "Your Cab Driver Is Looking For Job."

"There is nobody that has ever jumped in my car that will not appreciate the effort," Saccoh said, adding that people have offered to redo his resume and forward it along to contacts. "It's incredible, everybody wants to help me in their own little way."

In fact, that's how I found myself in his cab yesterday morning. One of his fares sent a tweet with a photo of Saccoh's posted resume. "Guy is streaming accounting seminars as he drives!" an impressed William Gullan tweeted.

Saccoh came to the United States in 2001, shortly after getting his bachelor's in accounting and finance in Sierra Leone. In 2006 he got another bachelor's, in computer technology, from Drexel and in 2011, a master's in accounting and controllership from Strayer University.

He's had accounting jobs, but when the companies folded or downsized, he said, he'd find himself driving a cab again. Not that he's complaining. Saccoh says driving a cab has been good and steady work, and as his supportive boss Everett Abitbol said, it's long been a stepping-stone for new immigrants.

"At the end of the day, you just keep doing what you need to do and put yourself out there and hope that one day things are going to fall into place," Saccoh said.

He drives a cab 12 hours a day every day, from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. When he's not driving, he's doing taxes at a seasonal job at H&R Block.

It all helps pay his bills and support his extended family in Sierra Leone, which includes a new wife he hopes will join him soon, his parents and younger siblings.

"I send money to Africa every week, that is a given," he said. "I cannot sit down there and fold my hands and say 'I don't have a job.' I need to look for something to do until I get what I want."

Saccoh, who became a U.S. citizen in 2010, said he is ready to start a job in his chosen field as soon as he gets a chance. Or he makes his chance happen.

After helping a fellow cabdriver with a tax problem, Saccoh started to think he may have another calling in helping his fellow immigrants.

"Maybe I am an entrepreneur in employee's clothing," he said. "I am seeing a shift now where people are going from just working to starting their own businesses. Tax laws are very dynamic, very complicated. If I can help my community navigate them, that would bring a lot of meaning and value to me."

Whatever path he chooses, Saccoh said he is sure of one thing.

"I did not make a mistake in coming to this country, because this is the one country that I'm convinced that you can be anything you want to be - if only you know what you want to be," Saccoh said before heading out to his next fare. "It's going to be a matter of time, it's going to require some element of persistence and courage, but I have no doubt in my mind that I will realize my dreams in this country."


Email: ubinas@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5943

On Twitter: @NotesFromHel

On Facebook: Helen.Ubinas

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