In 2004, Luma Mufleh took a wrong turn on her way home from work and stumbled upon a group of bare-footed children kicking around a deflated soccer ball in a parking lot in Clarkston, Georgia. A couple days later, she returned to the same spot armed with a fancy new soccer ball and asked the boys if she could join their game. They agreed. Soon, Luma learned that these young men were refugees from war-torn countries who had been resettled in Clarkston, one of the United States’ 350 designated resettlement communities.
Within weeks, Luma helped transform the group into an official soccer team—The Fugees, short for refugees. The boys came from different places—Liberia, Sudan, Afghanistan—but they all knew what it was like to experience trauma and live somewhere entirely new. And they all loved soccer.
Luma realized these kids needed more than a soccer team. And so, she founded the Fugees Family. The organization helps provide the kids and their families with a support system. What began eight years ago as a single soccer team has become something much larger in the Fugees Academy—a school, a tutoring program, a summer camp, a college prep program, and, most importantly, a community. In 2011, a girls program was launched to mirror the successful boys program and provide refugee girls with a new sense of empowerment.
Last year KIND partnered with the Fugees Family to award a $7,500 gift to support their ongoing academic and extracurricular programming. Over the year, that gift was used to provide safe transportation for their middle school student athletes to and from tutoring sessions at the academy. We are proud to support a great organization that is helping to make the world a kinder place. We recently caught up with Anne Seymour of the Fugees to get a Project update and checkin with the Family.
We are committed to Do the KIND Thing and moving forward, KIND is providing funding for one project per month. Do you have an idea that makes the world a better place? Do you know of an organization that is actively supporting their community? Submit your project here and learn more about how small acts of kindness can add up to world change.
KIND: What is the mission of the Fugees Academy?
Anne Seymour: Fugees Academy is an independent, community-based middle school emphasizing academic and character development of student-athletes. Through small classes, high expectations, and targeted instruction, Fugees Academy empowers the most vulnerable of students—child survivors of war—to become independent thinkers and high-achieving scholars. Working as a team both on and off the field, members of the Fugees Academy community strive to support each other while working to achieve individual goals. It is our belief that this team mind-set nurtures and prepares young adults who will be the next generation of international and community leaders.
How do team sports like soccer help refugee children become more successful in other aspects of their life? Can you give an example?
Students who are involved with the Fugees are committed. They want to learn. And when that desire isn’t enough, the soccer keeps them coming back. Soccer, the world’s favorite sport, gives Fugees players what they rarely find in their previous schools: a sense of achievement, freedom and pleasure. Because the Fugees was initiated to fill the need for a soccer team, soccer has constantly been a driving force for many of the Fugees.
Soccer is treated as a privilege—games on weekends, tournaments, equipment, uniforms—everything must be earned. In order to participate in soccer, students must attend and pass all of their classes as well as get good behavior marks. An average program attendance rate of 90% and school attendance rate of 98% also indicate a strong commitment to the program and education. These numbers suggest that students involved with the Fugees are much less likely to dropout of school than their peers.
“The Fugees is my favorite school so far. They teach me to become a better reader, writer and to ask more questions. I made so many new friends that I feel like they are my second family. I really love this school because we become healthier in practice and they teach me to become a better person.” -Dilkhas, 12, Iraq
KIND Partnered with the Fugees Family earlier this year with a KIND project award. What were you able to accomplish with the funding?
Our KIND partnership helped us to continue providing the Fugees with safe rides home every night from after-school tutoring. Through the KIND award and donations from our supporters, we were able to purchase a new bus to meet the need of our ever-growing family.
What are some of the initiatives you’re currently working on? How can our readership support your initiatives?
In the past eight years, the Fugees Family has grown enormously to include a suite of academic, athletic and enrichment programs designed to help refugee children succeed. Our enrollment is growing too. As we continue to develop plans for building a permanent, larger campus for Fugees Academy, we are working on a parallel track to ensure that the organization continues to be financially sound and forward-looking in the face of growth.
To make a donation to the Fugees Family, visit fugeesfamily.org/donate
Or shop through smile.amazon.com/
and search for and select “Fugees Family”. Amazon will automatically donate 6% of all eligible purchases to the Fugees!
When you buy a box of KIND Bars, consider sending an additional box to the Fugees to help keep the Fugees fueled in the classroom and on the field!
PO BOX 388
Scottdale, GA 30079