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.
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