Sireesh Ramesh, Staff Reporter
The Syrian refugee crisis has grown into one of the biggest political questions of the decade. Politicians and citizens alike have become strangled in vicious political debate over what to do with the millions wanting refuge. While many are questioning how to handle the Syrians seeking asylum abroad, organizations like the City Hope Community have begun with the refugees already in America. Founded in 2006, the charity began as a tutoring center for the minority of refugees living in Georgia. As the Syrian civil war worsened, the organization started getting more and more families from the war-torn nation. I met with Ellen Kim, one of the organization’s leaders, who told me about the focus of the program.
“A lot of refugees come here not knowing any English. One of our most important programs is helping the kids learn English as fast as possible,” Ellen emphasized. But tutoring families is not the only thing City Hope has done to help incoming refugees. After three months, government assistance for refugees cuts off, and then the burden of providing for the family falls on the parents’ shoulders. This becomes especially hard when most parents, still trying to learn English, are unable to find a job. City Hope helps these families by applying for food stamps and providing money after the three-month window ends. One of the refugee families gave me insight on how the organization impacted their lives.
The Qhadij family lives in a 200-square-foot apartment. The space can only manage to fit a closet-sized kitchen, bathroom, and couch covered in stains from the antics of five young children . A haphazard mix of paper is scattered across the carpet floor, its drawings matching those etched in dark crayon on the walls. “It’s been a hard transition,” the mother explains in her newly learned English doused in phonemes of Arabic. “[The City Hope Community] has really helped make everything a little bit easier,” she says, staring admiringly at Ellen. The family fled from Syria when their village was bombed by incoming ISIS militants. They escaped to the deserts of Jordan, moving aimlessly from camp to camp, before finally gaining refugee status in America three years later. The oldest of the five kids, Abdul, chimes in. Despite his lack of fluency in English, Abdul paints his words with color, creating vibrant expressions with each sentence, “I see on the news that many people don’t want me, us, Syrians here, but [City Hope] makes me feel like I belong.”