The Boys and Girls Clubs of America step up to help refugees

Story and photos by KATIE UNDESSER

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America are making a positive impact on the refugee community by providing open activities for them to enjoy. Refugees come into a new country and more often than not do not know anyone. According to statistics from UNHCR an extraordinary 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

The Boys and Girls Club of Sugarhouse located at 968 Sugarmont Drive offers several after-school programs.

During the day while the parents are at work the kids are either in school or at an after-school activity.

Ghufran, a refugee from Iraq, said, “While my parents are at work I have nothing to do but to sit by myself so I try to find things to keep myself busy. On Wednesdays, I am able to go bowling with some friends. I am a manager at Burger King and go to the Boys and Girls Club.”

Ghufran, who is 17, arrived in the United States in January 2017. She was fortunate enough to be educated in English years before arriving, which made her resettlement a little easier.

According to Brian Grace, who worked for Catholic Community Services (CCS) for a year as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program, “Every story is different. You get some people like Ghufran who spoke English before they came here and succeed in school and have a plan for college. Then you have others that never spoke a word of English before they got here and are a senior in high school and they aren’t going to graduate.”

Amira, a refugee from a city in western Syria called Homs, said, “I first came to the States not knowing anyone. It was hard making friends. My mentor set me and my brothers up with the Boys and Girls Club to help us socialize more. I hadn’t heard of this place before and we had nothing like it back in Homs.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) mission statement says, “To enable all young people, especially those who need us the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens.”

Refugees such as Ghufran and Amira opened up to the possibilities that the BGCA could offer them and their siblings. There are eight locations throughout the Greater Salt Lake area.

BGCA takes part in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in coordination with any school district and city council not only in Utah, but all across America to help families who are considered low income. This act essentially helps refugees and those with low incomes come to the Boys and Girls Club for free to use their amenities.

The BGCA has several grant-funded programs including Power Hour: Making Minutes Count, Career Launch, CyberSafety and Healthy Habits.

According to BGCA, Power Hour: Making Minutes Count provides Club professionals with the strategies, activities, resources and information to create an engaging homework help and tutoring program that encourages Club members of every age to become self-directed learners.

The playground at the Boys and Girls Club of Sugarhouse creates a space for children to get some recreation.

Along with the programs listed, the BGCA offers leadership programs, community service programs, resume help and skill building for job seeking.

Since Ghufran’s arrival in Salt Lake City, she has learned to be a successful manager at Burger King and has a plan for after high school. Ghufran is currently a senior at Murray High School and plans to pursue her college education at Salt Lake Community College after she travels for a couple of months.

“The Boys and Girls Club helped me build my resume for college and receive scholarships so it could even be possible for me to go to college. I am planning on traveling after high school, but I am sad it has to be in the States. I do not have [a] green card yet to travel. Then I plan on going to SLCC (Salt Lake Community College) for two years and then the U (The University of Utah),” Ghufran said.

Amira, who is 17, is currently a junior in high school. She arrived in Salt Lake City in March 2016 with little-to-no English skills. Amira is continuing to go to BGCA to receive the benefits from attending. Her English has gotten better over the year but she wants to improve it more.