Fodbold. Fuβball. Pêl-droed. Sokker. Zúqiú. Soccer.
Soccer is an international pastime and Luma Mufleh has used it as a stepping-stone to foster harmony and order in the lives of Clarkston, Georgia’s refugee children; children who have witnessed the worst of our modern age.
Born in Amman, Jordan, Mufleh moved to Atlanta a year and a half after graduating from Smith College. One day, as she drove down a street in Clarkston, she happened upon a group of young boys playing soccer in the street. “They played without some of the most basic equipment–but they played for the sheer enjoyment of the game–something that reminded [her] of home,” she said.
Mufleh decided to organize a soccer team for the boys and distributed fliers amongst the apartment buildings where she knew refugee families lived. The fliers were printed in Arabic, English, French, and Vietnamese.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, Clarkston is one of 350 cities chosen by the United States government for the resettlement of refugees seeking asylum. Since 1981, amidst severe scrutiny according to a New York Times article, over 61,000 people have been resettled to this suburban Georgia town.
The children and their families hail from 28 nations, including: Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Republic of Congo, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. One child witnessed his father’s murder in the family’s living room; another, a former child soldier, was commanded to shoot his best friend; and a third fled Kosovo after Serbian soldiers torched his father’s grocery.
After repeatedly being asked by the boys to help them with their homework, Mufleh decided to open the Fugees Academy. Using her own money, and with the help of donations, Mufleh developed a rigorous college-prep curriculum for students in sixth through twelfth grade.
“You would have a kid who arrived who is 13 or 14 and they would get plunked into 8th or 9th grade,” said Mufleh in a CBS interview. “They would be expected to do Algebra and Shakespeare and the kid can’t read or add or multiply because he grew up in a refugee camp and they were slipping through the cracks.”
It was the summer of 2004 when Mufleh first encountered those boys playing in the street. Fast forward to 2012 and the Fugee Academy has thirty-six enrolled students and employs seven full-time teachers who, according to their website, “provide individualized curricula aimed to fill in gaps in [the student’s] education and help them perform at grade level.”
Luma Mufleh will speak at The Williston Northampton School on Friday, November 30 as part of the Sara Wattles Perry ’77 Lecture. The lecture will be held in the gymnasium and is not open to the public.