Today, I am going to tell you about one of our new projects impacting adolescent refugee girls in Texas. In reviewing this project, what truly inspired me was Local Hero Blair Brettschneider, a young person, just 26 years old, taking the lead on a critical international issue impacting children right here in the United States. She is a reminder that people changing the world are not limited to any generation.
Location: Austin, Texas
Context: Over the last five years, Texas has resettled more refugees than any other state in the United States. They come without jobs or a place to live. The don’t know the language or how to get a job. The only thing they know is that they cannot go back. Child refugees often have the burden of being the ambassadors for their family. They have to learn the language and culture quickly so they can translate for their parents and help ease the entire family’s transition.
Background: GO Local Hero Blair Brettschneider began tutoring a teen refugee girl in Chicago whose story, challenges, and determination inspired her to start GirlForward to address the needs of adolescent refugee girls. The organization now serves over 100 girls annually through their mentoring program, after school tutoring, and summer camp programs in Chicago and Austin.
Current Status: In March 2016, GO Campaign approved a grant for $22,396 to GirlForward to sponsor their Austin summer camp program reaching adolescent girls ranging in age from 14-20. Camp kicked off on June 9th and is in full swing! The camp focuses on improving reading, writing, and speaking skills over the course of the 8-week program. Some of the girls resettled in United States as recently as two months ago, and others moved here more than two years ago from countries such as Iran, Burma and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gentile is 15 years old and a freshman in high school. Her first language is Kinyarwanda and she speaks Swahili, but she works incredibly hard every day to strengthen her English vocabulary. Gentile is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, however she grew up in a refugee camp in Rwanda. She lives with 10 family members in a small apartment in Austin. Gentile has already faced many challenges in her young life, but this is not stopping her from seizing opportunity. She joined the high school basketball team and wants to study social work in college. We are excited to be a part of Gentile’s journey and ensure she has the support needed to achieve her dreams.