A thirteen-year-old Iraqi refugee moved to the United States with her mother and grandmother. Everything was new to her here; the language, the styles of communication, even the diversity of cultures surprised her. The young girl learned of Access California Services and joined AccessCal’s Arab Youth Collective in its early months of launching last year. Upon joining the group she was slightly reserved, quiet, and reluctant to meeting new people. During one of the Collective’s weekly meetings, she fleetingly expressed experiencing difficulty adapting to her new life in this entirely new culture.
As months progressed, she gradually began interacting more openly with her peers at the Arab Youth Collective. She realized that their issues and anxieties were similar to hers. She began expressing her own ideas and opinions. Her confidence was beginning to grow.
When we recently asked her about her experiences with the Arab Youth Collective she said, “It taught me to never give up and to always ask questions. I always look forward to our weekly gatherings.”
Early on, her visits may have seemed like casual meetings with peers, but this group of delightful young Arab Americans has become her outlet to question issues and to talk about her stresses and concerns. It has allowed her to exchange ideas and create a dialogue about complex matters in a safe, welcoming space. Today, although she misses her home of Iraq, she believes the Arab Youth Collective is really her home away from home.