“Hello, World!” Introduction for the Refugee Crisis

Monday night is probably the most tiring and boring night for a student in college. My highlight of the week is Monday nights: my friends and I go to a local refugee home. The refugees are all Syrian that came here a few months ago. Some stayed in Turkey for a couple of years. Others directly came. They are in a new place with new foods, new language, new friends, and a new environment. Most of them probably know that they will not be going back to Syria. For them, it may be easier to forget everything about Syria, then go through the pain of remembering it.

Most of them came to America for a safe environment and to gain a better education. My friends and I try to help them with their English and their homework. Even though none of my friends and I know any formal method of teaching English, we wanted to do something about the refugee crisis. Doing nothing always bothered me. Anyways, we spend about two hours with all seven of them. The youngest is going to start 1st grade and the oldest is in 8th grade. In the first hour, we help them with their homework and explain English concepts like the differences of “a” and “the ”, common verbs like running, writing, wanting, and how to ask, does this have pork in it and other useful English concepts that they can use every day. We do not speak to them in English but rather in Turkish or Arabic. This is a struggle for us because we have to think about some English concept, translate it to Arabic or Turkish, and try to explain our translation to them. The other hour is just the kids telling us stories about school and life. Most of the stories are very funny and we always leave smiling.

There are many questions that go through my head while I am tutoring the kids. How can we help the refugees that come from a war-torn country be successful in the society? Does ESL or tutoring really help them? How do we integrate these families into the community?

The 5 years civil war in Syria displaced about 5 million people. Many are seeking asylum in the neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan, or Turkey. But some want to go to a European country to better opportunities like education. Living in a wealthy country I want to learn how does America and Europe educate these refugees.

If you are not familiar with the background of the refugee crisis, here is a good article about it (I know it is Wikipedia but it is good to get a rough idea). If you need something academic, prepare yourself. If you do not like reading here is a video.

–Speaker

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