USCRI: U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

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Refugee Children Start the New School Year in Albany

Imagine navigating the ins and outs of the education system without speaking fluent English, knowing the difference between kindergarten and first grade, or ever having heard of a P.T.A.? Where would you begin?

If you are a newly arrived refugee in the Capital Region, you might turn to the staff and volunteers of USCRI Albany to make sure your children start the school year off right.

This month we helped refugee children from Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and several other countries get their backpacks and sneakers ready to head off to their first day of school. Some of these children were born in refugee camps. Others fled with their parents, as they escaped war and persecution.

This year alone, USCRI Albany helped over 300 refugees begin a new life in the Capital Region. Getting their children into school is a major priority for most refugees. Refugees arrive in Albany with the hope of realizing the American dream. And one way to make that dream a reality is by ensuring that their children go to school.

However, that's easier said than done. For many refugees the bureaucracy of city schools can be daunting. There is a great deal of paperwork, scheduling, and appointments. Add to that the mandatory immunization for children, which requires several doctors' visits, and it's easy to see how this running from one appointment to another can take a toll on someone who has lived in a refugee camp for years.

Because of these difficulties, USCRI staff and volunteers took it upon themselves to provide help and support throughout the process and make the first day of school this year as painless as possible for the parents and as wonderfully exciting as possible for the children. "It is a lot to coordinate, especially if you have been warehoused in a refugee camp in a remote region in Thailand for the last 20 years like many of the Karenni," explains USCRI Albany Director Zoeann Murphy. And the refugees really welcomed the assistance.

In all, volunteers accompanied 47 refugee children ranging in age from 5 to 18 and their parents on the first day of school. And as a result everyone was all smiles on that much-anticipated day. Need proof? Just take a look at these photos!















From left to right: Valantina, Abbas, and Masah are ready to start a school quite different from the school they knew in Iraq. Preh Reh, a Karenni refugee from Burma takes his daughter Shaw Meh and his son Na Reh to the first day of school. 

Top image: Karen and Karenni refugee children say good bye to summer and head off to school. 
To learn how you can help refugee families in your community realize their American Dream, contact one of our field offices or partner agencies near you >>

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