Whenever I tell people about our Refugee Youth Program, one of the first questions they always ask is whether the kids speak English, and b2ap3_thumbnail_Namesh.jpgthe second is always how the kids are able to adjust to life and school in the US. These are completely valid questions, and they are both things that we hope to help out with in our program. But my answer is always this: even though our kids have been through more in their short lives than most people who grew up in the US can even imagine, and even though they have to try twice as hard as all the other kids at their school, at the end of the day they are kids! They love being goofy and playing games and running around, and seeing a group of kids who speak all different languages learning and playing together, not allowing their different backgrounds and languages to get in the way, is one of the most beautiful things. That is why I am so thankful for our youth program and why we strive to give every kid the chance to just be the kids that they are, while embracing who they are and where they come from.

This summer our program is focused on four main themes: empathy, resilience, grit, and leadership. Every single one of the kids already has all of these to some degree, but, through reading, art, and drama projects, our goal is to help the kids to really understand what these mean and to remember them as they go through life. We start each morning by reading a book together, each of which touches on one of those themes. It is amazing to hear what the kids think about the stories we read and how they are able to pick up on things that even the adults miss! At the end of the summer program, which is 4 weeks long, every kid will get to take 4 books home: 1 from each week’s theme. Then they can practice reading with their parents, their siblings, or their friends, and they can remember and share what they’ve learned! The summer isn’t only about reading though — we also have lots of art, drama, games, and of course soccer happening, thanks to some amazing volunteers!

As with all of our programs, volunteers are critical and add such an exciting element. This summer is no exception, and we are lucky to have some incredibly talented people coming each day to teach the kids some new skills as they navigate the themes of the week. Already, after the first week, the kids have made a puzzle mural together, written and performed mini plays, shared about the meaning of their names, made Papier Mache balls that represent themselves, and played all kinds of games to get to know each other better! Most importantly, they’ve had so much fun! And isn’t that really the point when you’re a kid?

By Kailey Otten, Program Director