“I want our kids to be better prepared for school in America”. It was initially an alarming sentiment for me to hear, as we asked our refugee friends what was most important to them in a preschool. But, as the gentleman expounded, it made sense.
The children of first generation refugees are often living in homes where English is rarely, if ever, spoken. The culture of the home doesn’t reflect the culture that now surrounds them. Many parents are doing everything they can to preserve what they had to leave: language, customs, food, a way of life…
And, as a result, many of the children are not fully learning what it means to live in America until they enter kindergarten. And, as you might imagine, the learning curve is steep. It’s not only language, but it’s figuring out what the new social norms and expectations are, it’s making new friends who value and prioritize different things, it’s navigating right from wrong in an entirely different context. It can be a lot for a five- or six- year-old to negotiate.
When we set out to start a preschool, I knew it was a need… because I knew language was a need. But, I hadn’t quite anticipated the need for an adjustment period for many of our littlest friends. The head nods and sounds of affirmation flooded the room after what this man had just articulated. He wasn’t alone in seeing this need for his children: they all did.
And I imagined a bit of sorrow in having to admit that. Another loss as a result of having to flee – relying on others to teach your child about how to live in an entirely different culture so they have a better chance at success. Maybe even fear – what will this new, mostly unknown culture do to my child? How will it change them? What impact will it have? Will our culture be forgotten… lost?
We hope not.
It’s why we’re setting out to make our City of Refuge preschool cross-cultural. To share and celebrate the diverse backgrounds and cultures that we all bring to table. Our capacity of 47 three to five year olds will be a mix of kids with a refugee background and kids without. English will be learned, for sure. But maybe some Burmese will also be sprinkled in. Or Pashto. Or Swahili. Songs will be sung, dances danced, play will happen. Kids will make new friends. Parents will meet parents from other countries. It may be messy at times, but it will be beautiful.
We can’t wait, and we can’t wait to share this journey with you.
Construction officially began this week and we anticipate a January 2024 opening. We’re still looking for financial partners to make it all come to fruition.
Would you consider, today, a gift to our Capital Campaign? A gift of hope, a gift of belonging.
Thank you for your ongoing support as we press in to meet the growing needs of our refugee friends.
P.S. We’re also accepting applications for lead teachers and teacher’s aides. If you or someone you know may be a good fit for our new preschool, we’d love to see your application come through! And, if you’re a parent (or know a parent) looking for a unique opportunity for your preschool age child, we’d love for you to consider sending your kiddo to our program. You can fill out an application here.