Can you imagine showing up in a foreign country where the language, customs, food, and culture are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced? For some this might sound like a grand adventure, but for a refugee family, this would likely be very intimidating and perhaps scary.
Not only was this my first summer here at SSYO, but we also we had the privilege of welcoming two refugee families for the first time – one from Sudan and one from Afghanistan! We were incredibly blessed to have just the right staff in place for RISE Summer School to help accommodate these families. Two of our interns were able to speak Arabic with the Sudanese family, and our gifted staff were able to help both families with their learning of English as a second language. Jess, our new summer program director (another first), fully embraced this unique opportunity to ensure ALL the kids in the program grew from this experience. Jess had all the kids think through what it would feel like to enter into a situation that was completely foreign to them, not knowing the language and culture, and practice how to make someone feel welcomed and included even though they couldn’t tell them in words. She also ensured that everyone practiced pronouncing the names of each child in the refugee families. Two college students on staff took it upon themselves to shop for and prepare food to ensure the families had something familiar. In short, staff and students had the amazing opportunity to broaden their horizons. What a wonderful thing to behold as all the children adapted to one another and simply enjoyed the fun of being kids!
As always, RISE Summer School was an effective mingling of academics, character building, and fun. Even much of the learning had healthy doses of fun mixed in (Did you know there is a writing method that involves Oreo Cookies?!?). Aside from providing this programming to families who may not otherwise have this opportunity, one of our main goals is to ensure that all the participants will go back to school (or enter for the first time) more prepared for the year ahead. We would also like to think that, especially after this summer, they will return to school with greater confidence and a new outlook and appreciation for others, regardless of their differences.
Though we’ve said it many times, it bears repeating often: THANK YOU for your support – we could not do it without you!