Helping young refugees adjust to NYC life

August 10, 2010 2:51:22 PM PDT
Moving to New York City from another hometown can be a difficult adjustment. For children from war-torn countries, the differences can be drastic.

A summer program, called the Summer Refugee Academy, is designed to help young refugees adjust to life and education in New York. It serves children from five to eighteen years old.

"In Nepal, we were refugees and we didn't get better education, we didn't go to boarding school high schools or learn lots of English," said Anita Sharma, a Nepalese immigrant, explaining the differences in education.

Haider Alzubaidy, a native of Bagdad, Iraq, remembers running to school to avoid being shot by a sniper.

"I have to run to other side, like to, like, zig-zag all the way to the school, because if I walk slowly, the sniperwill catch me and kill me," he said.

Mamadou Barry, another young refugee, and his family escaped political repression in Guinea, West Africa, and threats from his father's political enemies.

"He [my father] was afraid 'cause...that's the reason why go to the immigration and come here, to bring us all here to come here...take us out of the danger," Barry said.

The Summer Refugee Academy is a product of the International Rescue Committee, and it is considered one of the next steps for refugee students after they and their families are brought to this country."

"During the summertime we are really focused on developing the classroom readiness skills that will ensure success for our students in September," Elizabeth Demchak, The Academy principal, said.

During the regular school year, Academy students have Saturday classes, tutoring and other support systems. The students all seem to feel they have many reasons for working hard to succeed.

"I feel blessed to be here and especially International Rescue community helped me a lot to get me in schools," Sharma said.