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Helping refugees in their new homes

Sarah David

Sarah David

Mirielle Knoll, an 85-year-old woman who survived the Holocaust, was murdered in France last month in what investigators believe was an anti-Semitic crime. The horror of that fact is particularly striking because it shows that, while we aspire as a society to move past horrific events, such as the Holocaust, the actions of a few sick individuals remind us how little progress we have made.

It is hard, in light of the terrible things happening both around the world and in our own country, to find a way to
see where individuals can make a difference for refugees — people who have fled genocide, war, and dangers too vast to describe now — who are now afraid of violence in their new homes. In Maryland, one of the answers to this problem lies in the tremendously important work of the Refugee Youth Project.

The Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project seeks to improve the lives of Baltimore’s youngest refugees by supporting their academic needs and making their integration simple and meaningful. RYP is committed to its mission of creating a safe environment for refugee children to improve their literacy skills, enhance their knowledge of American culture, engage in enriching extracurricular activities, and grow to be confident, caring individuals. The program currently serves newcomers from more than a dozen countries, including Bhutan, Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mauritania and Sudan.

In 2003, RYP began providing after-school support to 12 children at one site in Baltimore. Since then, RYP has expanded its programming locations to meet the needs of resettled students across Baltimore and Baltimore County. The program now typically reaches more than 300 students annually through a combination of after-school, community arts, and summer school activities. Beginning last fall, RYP will be providing out-of- school-time programs across the Baltimore metropolitan area, including Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard and
Harford counties.

You can help. RYP is looking for volunteers to serve as mentors, as after-school program volunteers—you can even sign their email list and just fill in to help with field trips if you happen to be free. The more people that can help the Refugee Youth Project assist families and children trying to make our country, our state and our communities their home, the better. Your time commitment might vary based on your other demands but your commitment to this wonderful organization says a lot more about the power of the individual to
make someone feel welcome.

There will always be evil and there will always be good in the way that individuals treat one another. Let’s help tip the scale for good and work to ensure that those who escape horrors in their country of origin find kindness, acceptance and assistance when they arrive in Maryland.