English school gives refugee mothers and their young children an opportunity to build community and a sense of belonging and helps reduce barriers for inclusion among this often overlooked group.

Hawa Abdelrahmin’s kind smile hides that by 8:30 on a sunny Thursday morning, she’s already had a very busy day. After walking a mile to take six-year-old son Ahmed to kindergarten with siblings Youssef (3) and Susan (8 months) in tow, she headed next to English class before getting a call that Ahmed was sick with pinkeye and must be taken home.

Dayton Public Schools (DPS) in Dayton, Ohio has established a number of efforts to help refugee children with academic performance and socialization.   Recognizing that newcomer children often struggle in their transition to U.S. schools, DPS has established a Welcome Center and individualized mentoring and tutoring with community volunteers, with the goal to smooth their transition and help them thrive. It’s a reciprocal relationship, for refugee students enrich the lives of their mentors, as much as the mentors help them.

The Coalition for Refugee Resettlement (CRR) matches Virginia Tech students with refugees from Burundi, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.

An independent, entirely student-run organization, CRR builds relationships with refugee families and gives student volunteers an opportunity for a hands-on community experience. Students provide in-home tutoring – everything from serving as mentors to providing homework help for kindergartners through high school students, and helping adults learn English and prepare for their naturalization exams.

Last fall, Church World Service in Durham began facilitating "friendly conversation" between Duke students and local refugees with the launch of Dardasha ("Friendly Conversation" in English), an Arabic  exchange program. Students and families meet to practice Arabic and English as well as expand their cultural knowledge. The program has proven popular with both refugees and students and has expanded this semester to include twenty-two Arabic-speaking refugees from Iraq and Sudan and twenty-three Duke students.

International Institute of Minnesota’s mentoring program began over a decade ago after a local Somali woman had her life threatened.  This was shortly after September 11th, and there was a growing community need to bring people together to build greater cross-cultural understanding and decrease anxiety.  The mentoring program began by uniting women of different cultures and faiths, but it soon expanded to help connect new arrival families with longer-term receiving communities members.