No Lost Generation offers more than just typical homework assistance.
Members of the student-run outreach program work with and tutor young refugees in the Lehigh Valley.
Sarah Stanlick, the director of the Center for Community Engagement, was asked by a local church group if she knew of students who might be interested in creating an organization that would work alongside refugees.
Stanlick brought the idea to Katie Morris, ’18, who had shown an interest in helping refugees since her sophomore year and was eager to get involved. Morris spoke with some friends and created Lehigh’s chapter of No Lost Generation.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, four Lehigh students meet with six refugee students for approximately an hour to help with homework.
Lehigh’s chapter of No Lost Generation works to help refugees in the Lehigh Valley. Morris, the club’s president, and her peers faced some challenges when they started the club in spring 2016. However, they learned within the first few weeks of the semester that No Lost Generation would be an organization that aided in the academic and personal development of refugees.
Because the six refugee students that the organization works with are Syrian and speak Kurdish and Arabic, the group faced both language and cultural barriers. Morris said this situation forced the students to learn English to communicate with the tutors.
The volunteers instead focused during the first semester on working to build the refugees’ English and American cultural awareness by hosting games and activities that aided in their development. From Easter egg hunts with clues written in English to an end-of-year party that introduced students to their first piñata, No Lost Generation fostered a relationship with their students that went far beyond just homework.
Most recently, members painted pumpkins with the students to get in the fall spirit.
“It’s not super fun to come to school after school, so we try to keep it light and fun for them,” Morris said.
Katie Barr, ’18, got to know Morris in Tübingen, Germany, as part of a Mountaintop program. The two students were researching local refugee populations in the area, and Barr decided to help Morris start Lehigh’s chapter of No Lost Generation.
“Working with refugees can be more difficult than traditional tutoring,” Barr said. “There are always language and cultural barriers to some extent, but it has certainly taught me how to be open about cultural differences and encourage them to do the same.”
Despite some differences, Barr said refugees face challenges similar to other students.
“Their status as refugees doesn’t change the fact that we are always working through academic and social difficulties and just trying to get everyone excited about learning,” she said.
Over the summer, Barr continued tutoring the six refugee students. Morris said when she returned to campus in the fall, the progress and improvement they made was astonishing.
Since the refugees have improved their English, Morris, Barr and other tutors are now able to work on more challenging subjects such as math and science. These were subjects the refugees had little exposure to prior to coming to the United States.
“When we first started, we couldn’t even really hold a conversation, and now I can understand their personalities and talk to them about things,” Morris said. “It has been really rewarding to see them grow.”
Marilyn Nguyen, ’20, learned about No Lost Generation because she wanted to help misrepresented and misunderstood individuals, such as refugees and prisoners. After speaking with Stanlick, Nguyen joined No Lost Generation and became a tutor.
“Seeing (the students) do well and (be) happy makes me happiest,” Nguyen said. “They are adjusting and although they miss home so much, they are able to be happy around us and seeing them as themselves around us now is also awesome and liberating.”
In addition to tutoring and assisting the refugees with homework, club members participate in a variety of fundraisers for refugees in the Lehigh Valley.
They held at a trivia night fundraiser at Molly’s Irish Grille & Sports Pub on Oct. 19. Trivia questions were about refugee awareness and a portion of the proceeds went to Bethany Christian Services, a refugee group home in Allentown. No Lost Generation supports Bethany Christian Services because of its transparency with donations, Morris said.
Club members also sold succulent plants last year and raised more than $500, which they used to send 15 students to attend English as a Second Language, or ESL, classes.
Morris and the rest of No Lost Generation hope to raise more awareness on campus and in the Lehigh Valley about refugees and plan to hold a sensitivity training session on campus this year.