By refugees, for refugees.
It started with a wrong turn. Instead of the local Middle Eastern grocery store, Luma Mufleh found herself at a run-down apartment complex. Before exiting, though, she noticed a group of kids, some without shoes, playing soccer with a deflated ball in the field next to the complex.
She soon learned that most of the players were refugees from war-torn countries.
The game reminded her of growing up in Jordan, where street games of pickup soccer were a core part of childhood. It also reminded her of the refugee camps her grandmother took her to in order to instill a valuable lesson: “Don’t feel sorry for refugees — believe in them.” As the daughter and granddaughter of Syrian refugees, the lesson resonated deeply with Luma.
That pickup game at the apartment complex soon evolved into a team: The Fugees, slang for refugees. As a soccer coach, Mufleh developed strong relationships with her team. She saw their growth on the soccer field – and the challenges they faced off the field. Their parents worked long hours trying to build a new life in the US and they were often bullied at school for not being fluent in English or for simply being different. But what really stood out was the way their schools were failing them: Letting them pass from grade to grade without ever learning to read English. Assigning them geometry homework when they’d never been taught basic addition. Making them feel forgotten, inadequate, and ignored.
So the Fugees grew.
The soccer team expanded into a tutoring program, a summer camp, a support network, and eventually, in 2006, a school: Fugees Academy.
What began as a small after-school soccer program has since blossomed into Fugees Family, a network of schools that provide education, mentorship, and community support to hundreds of refugee families. In addition to the original Fugees Academy in Georgia, Fugees Family now partners with school districts to transform their newcomer programs through Teranga Academy, which applies the Fugees model to a public school context.