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Finding my Voice to help Refugees

My name is Sophia TenClay, and I am a member of One World Girl’s Youth Advisory Council. For four years I lived in Italy, where my family worked with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. My mom is a social worker who worked mostly with women who were survivors of human trafficking from Nigeria and with refugee families from Syria, where a brutal war continues. My father is a pastor who served as a protestant Christian minister to five churches in Italy, two of which had many people from various countries in Africa who attended. My sister and I attended italian schools and learned to write, speak and read Italian in less than a year!

Although my parents were the official missionaries, my sister and I also spent a lot of time with the people my mom and dad helped. We attended worship and other activities at the churches where my dad worked, and I helped lead Sunday School for the other children. We attended a multicultural school where some of the women my mom worked with participated in a job training program. I enjoyed seeing them and encouraged the other children to treat them with respect.

When my mom became a coordinator of a refugee resettlement program for refugees from Syria, three families moved into our neighborhood. One of the families (with five children!) even moved into the apartment right below us. I helped the children with their homework and helped babysit baby Maria, who was born safely in Italy, far away from the war.

At the end of my 5th grade year at school we had to create a project focused on one topic that touched on different subjects we learned at school--math, science, English, Italian, music, art, geography and history. Most of the kids in my class chose topics like soccer, music, or even hamburgers, but I chose the country of Syria as my topic, because I wanted to teach others about my friends and their beautiful home country that is being destroyed by war.

Maria’s family isn’t the only family we worked with and cared for. We met so many others with painful stories, but those are the stories that aren’t usually shared because they are too terrifying for people to believe them. Like the story of a dear friend of ours who has a large scar on her neck from being held in a prison in Libya, or the story of our friends who were in boats crossing the Mediterranian Sea for days without food and clean water. Many of them saw people die during their journeys.

One year, while I was living in Palermo, a group of women came to visit us and learn about what we did in italy to help others. Lesley Mazzota, the founder of One World Girl, was in the group of women who came to and she introduced me to One World Girl. She inspires me to help other young girls like me to love who they are and follow their passions. One World Girl is also teaching me the importance of using my experiences and my voice to make our world more kind and compassionate.

We can all do more to help people who have traveled from one country to another to escape war, poverty, persecution, etc. How can you become a changemaker for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers?

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