Inclusion Corner: Inclusion of the refugee population

“There’s an Afghan boy in my child’s school. He’s in fourth grade and goes around with an interpreter. I can’t even imagine what he’s been through. Now he’s in a new country and in a school with a bunch of kids he doesn’t know that don’t speak his language. Can you imagine how strong of a person he is going to grow up and become?”

The quote above was taken from a conversation I had with a colleague last week. It speaks to the topic this month of inclusion and our growing refugee population of children within our county and nation. So many families have been driven from their homes because of war or persecution and have little hope of returning home and even fewer chances of thriving in new communities even with languages that sometimes are not common to them.

Recently I met with executive director Angela Rose and communications manager Keri Kahn to discuss how to communicate on a broader spectrum to our community about the positive impact that volunteers within CASA are having on changing the lives of abused children here in the Pikes Peak Region.

As I listened to some of the stories that Keri shared about the volunteers who give so freely of their time and care to advocate for the children who can’t advocate for themselves, I was genuinely moved with compassion.

The three of us then began to discuss inclusion and diversity from another perspective – the perspective of children in a new country. An important aspect of inclusion is helping people of diverse backgrounds integrate into a new culture and helping to minimize some of the isolation that anyone can feel trying to move from being an `outsider’ in a culture to an `insider’.

There is a movie titled `The Good Lie’ and it does a great job of portraying the feelings of isolation that refugees can feel when they have to relocate to a new country and overcome trauma.

While I won’t give away all of the specifics of the movie 😊, the theme does center around some orphaned boys from the Sudan who traveled thousands of miles on foot in search of safety from a brutal civil war. It will possibly make you cry but it will also give you a glimpse into the lives of three orphaned boys being told to make up their beds while not understanding fully what a bed is.

As you continue to volunteer and serve children in our Pikes Peak Region who need a `new story’ in their lives with a better ending, please remember that you are vital to the part of their story that needs to change.

You may get discouraged at times feeling that you are not making a real difference in the lives of the children that you advocate for or that some things are just totally out of your control, but always remember that your presence in the lives of the children you serve may be the only real presence of hope and care that they have.

What is true inclusion? In a few words, it is value, worth, and dignity wrapped in the heart of you the volunteer.

— Dr. MelindaJoy Mingo