Refugees Find Hostility and Hope on Soccer Field – New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/21/us/21fugees.html?ei=5087%0A&em=&en=1fa37aebc606b997&ex=1169701200&pagewanted=all

SU’s acting weird, but I’m determined to post this, so here goes!

This is a stunning and inspiring article from the New York Times. In a small town in Georgia, an immigrant woman has organised a soccer team made up entirely of refugee children. She is their coach, their mentor, their friend and their psychologist, all rolled into one. And now she’s moved on to helping the parents, too. I’m constantly amazed by the impact people can have on the lives of others. I’m also constantly amazed at the depth of bigotry and narrow-mindedness that surround big-hearted people like this – the town refuses to let the kids play on the “baseball and football field”, and the residents make it clear the refugees are not welcome. Yet, as Carrington said, another 59 people like this could change the lives of every person in the town. It doesn’t necessarily “take a village”; just a few devoted villagers.

As a Jordanian in the Deep South, Ms. Mufleh identified in some ways with the refugees. A legal resident awaiting a green card, she often felt an outsider herself, and knew what it was like to be far from home.

She also found she was needed. Her fluent Arabic and conversational French came in handy for players’ mothers who needed to translate a never-ending flow of government paperwork. Teachers learned to call her when her players’ parents could not be located. Families began to invite her to dinner, platters of rice and bowls of leafy African stews. The Ziatys cut back on the peppers when Coach Luma came over; they learned she couldn’t handle them.

Upon hearing of the low wages the refugee women were earning, Ms. Mufleh thought she could do better. She started a house and office cleaning company called Fresh Start, to employ refugee women. The starting salary is $10 an hour, nearly double the minimum wage and more than the women were earning as maids in downtown hotels. She guarantees a 50-cent raise every year, and now employs six refugee women.

**UPDATE**

This is the first article I felt compelled to send to about half my friends list. Everyone who wrote back to me has used the word “hope” in their comments. Rarely have I been so affected by a story. Thanks to all who took the time to read it; it gives me hope too.

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