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Safe Summers For Refugee Families

Safe Summers For Refugee Families

After serving as an interpreter for U.S. forces in Iraq, Mousa and his family became a target of the terrorists and were able to immigrate to the U.S. Building a new life in America, can be overwelming and challenging for families like Mousa's. Luckily, the YMCA and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are here to guide them through the transition. 

The IRC in Denver helps people whose lives have been shattered by conflict and disaster to recover, find safety and regain control. By partnering with the YMCA, the IRC provides further assistance to these families by connecting them with scholarships and youth programs of the YMCA. One of the first families served through the partnership is Mousa, his wife Rasha, and their two sons Ghaith and Ali.

Seeking safety

When war broke out in Iraq, Mousa was a college student and Iraqi citizen. In a desire to help his country, Mousa joined the US forces as an interpreter and instructor for Iraqi military police. He continued to work on the side of America, until he himself became a target for terrorists. By then, Mousa had a wife and two young children, and their safety was in jeopardy.

Mousa took advantage of a special immigrant Visa designed for professionals who aid the US government overseas. Fleeing from Bagdad, which was becoming increasingly dangerous, Mousa and his family fled to Denver in search of a better life. 

“Every day, we would worry about the kids. When my wife went to the store, or when the kids went to school, I would have to keep calling to make sure they were okay,” Mousa says. “Thank goodness, we are here now.”

The IRC helped Mousa and his family adjust to the transition. But while they had somewhere to live and work, they still needed a place for their two sons. Through the new partnership with IRC, the YMCA reached out and welcomed the children to summer day camp. 

“Many kids in refugee situations have not been experiencing childhood. So to allow them to join their peers and to play and to learn and to know what it’s like to be safe and to be free is pretty amazing.” says Jennifer Wilson, IRC executive director.

Opportunities to thrive

Since Ghaith and Ali attended YMCA camp, the partnership with IRC has expanded. Now in its second year, more families like Mousa’s are being welcomed at YMCA day camps, including one camp that is bringing together an equal number of American children and refugee children to increase acceptance, school readiness, and language skills.

In addition to working with the IRC, the YMCA has partnered with ECDC African Community Center of Denver, a refugee resettlement organization, and Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains. Working with these youth organizations, the Y has been able to identify 15 newcomers to become Y camp counselors.