For those of you who don’t know about Youthlinc’s, Real Life Refugee Teen Mentoring Program here is what it is.
For the past 3 years I have been working with the International Rescue Committee and have found a passion for helping refugees resettle into their new life in Utah. For those of you who don’t know here are some facts about refugees in Utah.
- A refugee is someone who is forced to flee their homeland based on race, religion or ethnic minority. They flea to border countries and live in refugee camps which are over crowed, have a lack of food and supplies, and then they wait until they can be resettled to a safer new home.
- Some refugees can live up to 20-30 years in a refugee camp before being chosen to be resettled.
- There are over 30,000 refugees in Salt Lake City now.
- Each year the IRC and Catholic Community Service resettle about 1,200 new refugees into the SLC community.
- They mainly come from various African countries, Burma, Thailand, Nepal, and Iraq
Many people in Utah would never know that there are so many ethnicities and cultures around them but Salt Lake City is one of the top 5 cities for refugee relocation. These families are dropped into our city and expected to learn a new language, find jobs, and being self sustaining. They do receive a lot of support but there are so many and not enough resources.
This is where Youthlinc comes in. Last year I noticed that there was so much pressure being put on the Refugee Teens. They are expected to go to school, help out at home, find jobs, and translate for their parents all of this while trying to understand a new culture and going through all the normal drama of being a teenager. I wanted to create a program that would benefit the refugee teen population of Salt Lake and allow our Youthlinc students to serve. Then through a lot of discussion and attempts to form a partnership, we were able to create The Real Life Program. We currently are working with The Hser Ner Moo Community and Welcome Center and the City of South Salt Lake to run this program. We are so grateful for this partnership because we feel helping refugee teens is a large need that is not being met.
The goal of Real Life is to create a friendships between Youthlinc students and refugee teens to help them transition to their new lives. Our objective is to teach them “real life skills” such as financial literacy, teamwork, responsibility, and overall self respect.
This is how we reach our goal:
- The program runs Mondays and Wednesdays 4-6 and Fridays 5-7
- Currently we have 30-50 refugee teens ranging from 13-1. Some have been here for 3 years some have been here 2 months.
- We have 25 dedicated Youthlinc Volunteers
Through hands on learning activities and lessons, field trips, and friendships we are able to create a safe environment for these teens where they know they are supported. Our Youthlinc Students take part in planning and implementing lessons, which allows them to take ownership in their service and gain leadership skills. Our first planning meeting was such a success, I love seeing these amazing Youth take charge and really see that they can make a difference.
In such a short time we have already created strong bonds with the refugee teens. On the very first day we played many getting to know you games that were completely silly and fun, and I just have to say that it fills my heart with joy to see kids that have come from horrible refugee camps finally get to relax and just laugh. When we are all together it doesn’t matter if you are from Thailand, Africa, or America we are all here to learn from each other. Each day I see a new friendship made, English learned, a cultural barrier broken down.
I will keep you posted with updates throughout the year. We have some awesome activities planned and I can’t wait to see what happens.
Here are some much needed thank you’s
- Jerika Michel: Our amazing Program Intern. Thank you for your great ideas and kind heart.
- Thank you to the Hser Ner Moo Staff. It is so great working with such fun people.
- Thank you to all the Youthlinc Students who are volunteering with Real Life. This program couldn’t run without you and I hope you know how lucky I feel to be working with all of you!
A HUGE THANK YOU to our Sponsors this year
- The Burton Foundation
- Miss Utah USA
- American Express
- Larry H. Miller Charities
- The LDS Foundation
- GE Money Bank
Hope you all have a wonderful holiday!
Local Service Director