Forging Opportunities for Refugees in America (FORA) is a not-for-profit organization that empowers refugees by providing them with the educational resources needed to make a successful transition to the United States.
We provide intensive after-school tutoring for 30 recently-arrived K-12 refugee students with a 2-to-1 student-tutor ratio. Our curriculum is designed and implemented by a Ph.D. in child development who is on site every day during all classes.
Additionally, we provide 90 minutes a day of English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) instruction to 25 adults during the school day. (Most of the adults are stay-at-home moms who are related to the children we serve.) The program is led by a certified ESL instructor.
All services are free. We currently have a wait list of approximately 30 children and scores of adults.
FORA’s lifeblood is a team of top-notch, patient, dedicated, and joyful tutors who work to ensure that FORA’s students are provided not only with the educational support they need but also with a safe and inspiring emotional space where children can both thrive in the moment, as children, and prepare for future opportunities.
We at FORA are so glad at the enthusiastic response that volunteers have shown in doubling down on helping newly-arrived refugees feel welcomed and empowered in the United States. Whatever your political beliefs, the one thing that we can all agree on is that we want the people who are welcomed into this country not only to survive but to thrive.
Many of the refugees whom we serve have spent years or even decades in refugee camps and have been barred from attending school in their home countries for at least the past 50 years. As a result, a large proportion of the refugees we serve are illiterate in their native language. When they come to the United States, they are able to learn to speak English very quickly, as most of the people we work with already fluently speak three to five languages. However, the children often do not do well in school because they cannot read or do basic math in any language. These are very smart children but they need the basic tools to be able to succeed in school. Without such tools, they remain academically behind and as a result they become isolated, dejected, and, often, depressed and withdrawn.
FORA breaks this cycle of despair. Led by a child developmental psychologist who specializes in academic reform, FORA provides the educational scaffolding needed for these children to succeed at school and in life. In our first year, 2019, we worked with 30 students with a two-to-one student-teacher ratio, and we had amazing, statistically significant, results. More importantly, we treated these students as individuals and with patience and respect, demonstrating to them how much we value them and how much confidence we have that they will not only thrive in the United States but that they will make this nation even stronger. With success comes challenges. As news of FORA spread, our waitlist grew to more than 50 students, and we had to shut down our waitlist within a month of opening.
COVID-19 recently hit the whole world hard, and our refugee students are now again physically isolated, reminding many of their time in the refugee camps. We decided that we needed to "step up" in ways we had not before imagined. So we put out a call for volunteers and were successful, allowing us to pair all of our 2019 students with online tutors, using pedagogically sound reading and math software platforms. However, we also felt that given the extremely negative impact of isolation on newly-arrived refugee children that it was also imperative to start taking children who were on our waitlist. So, since April 2020, because of additional volunteers like you, we have been able to take an additional 30 students and are now up to 60 students who receive online one-on-tutoring every weekday.
However, we can do even more but need additional tutors. Every additional tutor is another refugee child who receives either math or reading instruction! If you can read or do basic math, you are ready to do this. Do not be shy. Be bold and dare making a difference in a child's life.