Refugees wait to get on a dinghy to sail off for the Greek island of Chios from the western Turkish coastal town of Cesme, in Izmir province, Turkey, November 4, 2015. Umit Bektas / Reuters
By Aisha Yaqoob
TMO Contributing Writer
Clarkston, Georgia, a small community east of Atlanta is home to thousands of resettled refugees from all over the world. The population is a mix of locals and refugees – some of which have been there for over a decade. Due to the economic situation of the community, the poor school system and lack of gainful employment opportunities have left many citizens in poor financial situations.
Project Hope – a newly organized effort by a group of women is working to help these displaced families. Starting out as a donation based organization, Project Hope supported families in terms of rent and medical expenses. But recently, the organization’s leaders realized that it was important to help tackle some of the causes of poverty in this area.
Currently, the organization is working with a number of families who need assistance with essentials like rent and groceries. At the same time, they are working with the adults to train them for careers that could provide for their family. With the connections the organization has, they are able to place people in jobs outside of the Clarkston area, where the economies and school systems are better.
In their most recent endeavor, Project Hope has launched their Educational Enhancement Initiative; a three-part approach to further assist these families. This effort consists of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for men and women, a tutoring program for children of all ages, and a mentorship program for high school age youth. In its second month of existence, the Educational Enhancement Initiative has brought almost 60 men, women, and children to these programs.
These programs are currently operating out of Taubah Academy, a local private Islamic School that has been in operation in the Clarkston community for more than 14 years. The school’s leadership has allowed Project Hope to run its programs every other Sunday for members of the community in exchange for mentoring their high school students. In addition, Project Hope sponsors children to attend Taubah Academy so they can attain a better education.
Volunteers for this initiative come from all over Atlanta. Most of the tutors are college students looking to give back to their communities. ESL instructors are certified teachers, or those who have worked previously with English-learners.
As the program is rapidly expanding, organizers hope to transition into a weekly program to further assist with tutoring and ESL classes. With an ample volunteer base, they hope to continue providing services on an individual basis.
“We focus on the family as a whole and education is our main focus in helping the families attain an independent and flourishing life style”, said Hira Syeda, a member of the Project Hope leadership team. With their Educational Enhancement Initiative and other programs, this organization has brought awareness of the needs of the Clarkston Refugee Community and has inspired others to find innovative ways of giving back.