Campus News Georgia Impact

Young African immigrants, refugees take part in new summer camp

A summer camp for African immigrant and refugee youth is one of several activities that are part of a new outreach project coordinated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s International Center for Democratic Governance, with support from the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach.

“Georgia ranks eighth in the nation among states receiving the largest numbers of permanent residents from Africa, with Atlanta hosting more than 200,000 African immigrants,” says Njeri Marekia-Cleaveland, ICDG faculty member. “Among these are a growing number of refugees. Last year, two major refugee resettlement organizations based in Atlanta contacted us for assistance in tutoring refugee youth at an after-school program in the Decatur area. UGA students have been working with the youth since January of this year.”

It is not your typical summer camp.The June event involving UGA students and faculty creates positive role models for participating youth and introduces them to a college learning environment. They also will have the opportunity to exchange viewpoints about current issues facing Africa and learn about this country’s system of government, both at the federal and local level, and how and where they can become involved.

“These youth can then return home as educators for their peers, parents and community,” Marekia-Cleaveland says.

ICDG hosted a one-day workshop this spring at UGA for emerging African community leaders in Georgia. Representatives from more than 25 organizations ranging from Women Watch Africa to Jubilee Partners refugee assistance came together for the first time to network, learn about Africa-related programs at UGA, discuss current issues and concerns facing Africans and enhance their skills in community organizing and developing.

The attendees appreciated the chance to be in a setting where they could learn more about each other and ways they can work together to improve the lives of their fellow Africans, according to Marekia-Cleaveland. Participants were from eight African countries of origin.

The tutoring program for African children and youth, already in action in the Decatur/Clarkston area with the involvement of UGA students, will continue. Several students are using this service-learning opportunity to both learn about others cultures and to earn course credits as practicum, independent study or internship. In addition, a few School of Public Health students are working with African families to provide them with information about immunizations, school registration and health education.

“This outreach project provides opportunities for UGA students to enhance their education while providing valuable assistance to organizations working with African refugees, and it directs university expertise to an underserved group of Georgians,” says Dan Durning, ICDG program director. “Programs like these can also help us establish links with different countries in Africa to expand our outreach there.”