Building a Future for Refugee Youth

 
$14,517
$35,483
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Remaining

As we listen to the horrific news of ISIS’ terror campaign in Iraq, our hearts go out to Iraqis around the world. RefugeeOne is privileged to have resettled hundreds of Iraqi families and individuals in recent years. We’re glad to share this hopeful story of one of those families with you.

Several years ago, RefugeeOne resettled an Iraqi father and his two young children. When the man’s wife was unable to leave Iraq with the rest of the family, the separation threw him into a paralyzing depression. He had a nervous breakdown shortly after arrival, could not keep his job, and became unable to care for his children. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed the children from his home and placed them in foster care.

RefugeeOne worked actively to restore this man and his family back to health. Staff provided extensive individual therapy and coordinated all aspects of his care with the court-appointed social worker and family therapist, foster parents, court attorneys, and a psychiatrist. The efforts led to measurable improvements. Program staff, his psychiatrist, court witnesses, and the client himself recognized his improved mental state and ability to be a good father. He achieved self-identified goals for recovery, learned English, looked for employment, and complied with therapy. Over time, he no longer needed medication. He became less focused on basic survival and moved to planning for the future. 

We are overjoyed to report that with the help of RefugeeOne, his children were returned to him with full custody and that after two years of separation he was reunited with his wife. When she arrived at O’Hare Airport, she was welcomed with tears of joy by her husband, daughter, and son.

The parents are now focused on their children’s health and education, and the children are excelling in RefugeeOne’s after-school program. Thanks to RefugeeOne’s services, this family’s dark hours and hopeless days are behind them, and they are living their daily lives with mental and emotional health. We feel honored to be part of this story of recovery and new life.

Thank YOU for being part of this story. Your gifts to RefugeeOne make it possible for refugees to build the foundations for flourishing lives in the U.S.

School is out and that means our Summer Youth Program is under way! Our summer day camp runs from June through August, providing about 100 refugee children with recreational and academic enrichment activities every week. Activities include beach days, field trips to the zoo and museums, bowling, soccer, character development activities, community service projects, health workshops, reading, writing, and math games. This year’s theme is “The Arts,” so there is sure to be plenty of arts, crafts, and theatre! Throughout the summer, youth will create their own mini-plays in groups, focusing on the core elements of writing: plot, character, theme, conflict, and setting.

The Summer Youth Program’s goal is to ensure that refugee youth have opportunities for socialization and development during the summer and that they are on track to begin the next school year. Through assisting refugee youth, the program also assists their parents, who are often busy finding work, learning English, and adjusting to life in the US.

On Wednesday, June 25th, GlobalGiving will match all donations in support of RefugeeOne’s Youth Program at 100%! If that isn’t reason enough to donate, World Refugee Day was June 20th so it’s a perfect time to support refugees. Matching funds are limited, so mark your calendar to make your gift here at 11:00 am CST on June 25th.

Like many refugee youth, Panaporn’s schooling was interrupted multiple times. But with hard work, dedication, and some help from RefugeeOne’s Youth Program, Panaporn has been able to excel in her education and build a strong foundation for her future.

Panaporn was born in Thailand. Before she was born, her family had fled conflict in Burma/Myanmar between the government and ethnic-based groups. After 13 years of living in Thailand, Panaporn relocated to a refugee camp on the border, leading to a wave of changes in her life. Panaporn had spent all of her young life living in Thailand with Thai people. She was now living with refugees from Burma, a country she only knew about through stories from her elders. She had to make new friends, learn a new culture, and speak a new language.

Because of this change, Panaporn had to start afresh in school. So at 13, she entered 3rd grade. She says, “I was taller than everyone in the class.” However, Panaporn progressed through school quickly, eventually skipping ahead to 9th grade.

After working so hard to catch up to her peers in school, Panaporn again had to interrupt her education. Her father lost his job, and with her mother ill at home, Panaporn had little choice but to drop out of school and begin working as a teacher and interpreter in order to help support her sick mother and younger brother.

When Panaporn was 15, her family was resettled to Chicago in search of greater opportunities, but once again uprooting her life and her education. She had to start all over for a second time – making new friends, learning a new culture, and speaking a new language. But this time, Panaporn had the support of RefugeeOne’s Youth Program. RefugeeOne helped Panaporn to enroll in school, “catch up” to the level of her American peers, engage with other refugees who shared similar stories, and apply for financial aid.  Thanks to her hard work, along with the support of RefugeeOne’s Youth Program, Panaporn recently graduated high school and is excited to attend Northeastern Illinois University in the fall.

Panaporn is proud to be the first member of her family to attend college. Her goal is to become a social worker one day so that she can help other refugees like herself. She says, “I feel like they (refugees) are my brothers or sisters… I can feel how hurt they are so I want to help them.”

Thanks to donors, RefugeeOne’s Youth Program is able to support many refugee youth like Panaporn. Through after-school tutoring and mentoring programs, along with parent education and school advocacy, RefugeeOne supports over 200 youth per year as they strive to learn English and succeed in a new educational system and culture.

Despite Panaporn’s many life changes, one thing that has remained consistent is her passion for music. Panaporn is a talented singer/songwriter who has written and performed songs in many languages. Click the link below to hear her beautiful performance at RefugeeOne’s gala.

Links:

Kyaw Thein and Abdurahim
Kyaw Thein and Abdurahim
Abdurahim and Kyaw Thein were born thousands of miles apart in Somalia and Burma. Now they are best friends in Chicago with many things in common: they are the youngest children in their families, attend the same high school, and love to hang out at McDonald's. Both are refugees whose families RefugeeOne helped resettle in Chicago. 

                         

Besides the universal struggles of resettlement, like culture shock and language barriers, both families faced additional challenges: Abdurahim's father was paralyzed and doctor's fees were beyond the family's means. Kyaw Thein's single mom had to leave two of his brothers behind in Burma and Malaysia. RefugeeOne was able to help Abdurahim's father obtain the medical attention he needed and to enroll both Abdurahim and Kyaw Thein in its youth program, where they became like brothers.

 

Last summer, Abdurahim and Kyaw Thein decided to give back through RefugeeOne. They volunteered at the day camp that they once attended and helped other children learn English just like they had. "My favorite part was taking the kids to the beach and making sure they were safe," Abdurahim notes. The friends also helped set up apartments, so that newly arriving families supported by RefugeeOne would be greeted as they were: with a welcoming home and a hot meal.
 
Your gifts to RefugeeOne bring people together--volunteers, refugees like Abdurahim and Kyaw Thien, Americans new and old--to reknit family, create lives of self-reliance, and enrich our community

 

 

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Organization

RefugeeOne

Chicago, IL, United States
http://www.refugeeone.org/

Project Leader

Kim Snoddy

Chicago, IL United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Building a Future for Refugee Youth