Tanner Semmelrock &
Imagine yourself in a new country. It’s taken you over three years to get to this point. You started in a home and then a camp, and now you are here. You don’t know the language, the environment or the customs. Maybe you are with your family. Maybe you are not.
You are met with hate and pushback. People tell you that you don’t belong here. You are different. You are lost. You are a refugee.
This was the scenario our Alternative Break group encountered everyday as we navigated the winding pipeline of refugee services in Atlanta, Georgia.
During the weeklong service trip we worked with three different refugee service organizations covering multiple perspectives of refugee resettlement and community integration.
The first organization, New American Pathways, focuses on the first three months of refugee resettlement within the United States, primarily helping refugees integrate into American society.
The refugees are given language classes, workshops on American societal norms and the opportunity to foster an identity here.
New American Pathways, through connections within the community, help refugees find jobs within the first three months of their residency.
All the while these new American citizens will cultivate identities in dignified fashions with high hopes for their futures here.
The overall goal at New American Pathways is to ensure that these refugees are self-sustainable and are contributing in their new communities.
Our group also worked with the International Community School (ICS).
ICS is a public charter school in DeKalb County, Georgia, that serves students from kindergarten to fifth grade.
ICS was strategically designed in 2002 to bring together refugee, immigrant and local children in an academically challenging and nurturing environment.
Today, the school serves more than 400 students annually, representing more than 30 nationalities and speaking 25 languages.
ICS is an International Baccalaureate World School that educates refugees, immigrants and local children, and provides a rigorous and holistic education in an intentionally diverse community of mutual learners.
The school believes that everyone is inherently able to learn and that it is our collective responsibility to nurture the unique genius of every person.
They also value educating the whole child – their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, cultural and creative selves.
Teaching in a culturally responsive lens, they view socio-emotional development as important as promoting academic excellence.
They welcome and engage with people of various identities including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ableism, faith and political affiliation.
ICS helps children foster a unique identity with the hope that they become global citizens working toward social justice.
Our last partner was Global Growers.
Global Growers grew out of the tremendous demand among international farmers, many who came to Atlanta as refugees of war, to reconnect to their agricultural heritage in their new home.
Recognizing this exceptional talent, Global Growers connects local families to land, education and markets in order to build healthier communities and strengthen their local economies.
They are committed to cultivating diverse farmers who are traditionally underserved by mainstream agricultural service providers.
Global Growers, like other community partners, dignifies the work refugees do to address food scarcity and self sustainability.
Our Alternative Break to Atlanta, Georgia, was both challenging and eye opening. We are deeply indebted to our partners because without them we would not have the same understanding of the trials and tribulations of becoming an American citizen.
So many of the adults and children we engaged with exposed us to perspectives not formally considered in our daily lives.
We will continue to remember the people who changed our lives in Georgia as we move forward in our college careers.
We can only hope that our experiences will help us educate others on the importance of tolerance and diversity.