|Students from the outreach program working on a Halloween activity and learning about the holiday – Courtesy of Mariam Abadeh.|
DEARBORN — As Dearborn Public Schools receive more refugee and immigrant students, the Multi-Tiered System of Support team at McCollough-Unis School started a winter clothing drive through their Refugee/ New Immigrant Outreach Program.
“The Refugee/New Immigrant Outreach Program at McCollough/Unis started as an idea with our building MTSS team, which includes resource teachers, administrators, a psychologist, speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, instructional coach, special education teacher and social worker,” school psychologist Muna Mashrah said. “We were throwing around ideas to try to figure out a way to support the influx of refugee and new immigrant families we were receiving. As a team, we settled on having an afterschool outreach program. Once the idea was approved, we began working on implementation.”
She said students need time to adapt to life in the U.S. because they know nothing about the customs and have a hard time communicating in English.
“Many are struggling academically due to the language barrier and/or lack of schooling in their home country,” she said, adding that others are experiencing emotional and behavioral struggles with anxiety, fear, and trauma from the wars they’ve endured.
“Each child is different, but there are trends, ” Mashrah said. “And that is why we felt the need to provide additional support outside the realm of the standard school day.”
Mashrah and her co-workers, resource teacher Mariam Abadeh and instructional coach Karen Ingoglia, have managed the program since its inception on Oct. 28.
She said the ultimate goal is to guarantee the students a safe environment where they can talk about what they’ve experienced in their home country, learn about and adapt to American culture and help families find and use school and community resources.
“The winter coat/clothing drive is a part of the third objective of our outreach program — to obtain support by reaching out to various community members through our drive,” Mashrah said.
She noted that many of the families have few resources and have never experienced a winter climate like Michigan’s. She said that most students walk to and from school, so they need winter clothing to keep them warm.
“The goal of the winter drive is to provide brand new jackets, coats, hats, gloves, socks and boots to the refugee and new immigrant families through our outreach program,” she said. “Any additional donations past our target goal will be used to purchase other clothing items for them, such as pants, long-sleeved thermals and sweaters.”
Up till now, Mashrah said Feblo International in Livonia donated brand new jackets, while Dearborn businesses Fordson Market and Aljazeera Furnishings donated money. She said people have also supported the cause on social media.
“Many gracious individuals have been promoting our winter clothing drive via social media and that has also generated donations to the GoFundMe campaign,” she said. “I definitely feel this winter clothing drive and the outreach program as a whole will make them (refugees and immigrants) feel more accepted. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that if a person’s basic needs, like food, water, warmth, safety and security are not met, then it becomes much more difficult to meet higher level needs, which affects learning, relationships and personal growth. Our clothing drive will provide them with the winter necessities to ensure that they stay warm, safe and secure in their travels to and from school.”
People and businesses interested in donating can through the drive’s GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/mcuniswinterdrive, cash donations, check donations to the order of Muna Mashrah, with a note that says “charity clothing drive”, or by buying any brand new winter clothing or accessories like jackets, coats, boots, hats or gloves for the children.
Contributors can call or email Mashrah at (313) 827-7961 or firstname.lastname@example.org to pick up the donations. They can also drop them off at McCollough-Unis School, addressed to the attention of Mashrah.
“We hope to get as much as we can in the next several weeks to meet the needs of our families,” she said. “If there are businesses that would like to contribute other items to the outreach program, please contact me directly or Mariam Abadeh at (313) 827-1700. For example, we have Dr. Nader Baydoun from Dearborn Dental Group donating dental hygiene kits for the kids for our session on oral health, so if other businesses would like to do something similar, we would love to talk with them.”
McCollough-Unis School currently has 15 refugee students and around 20 new immigrant students, but Mashrah said the school expects more to arrive. The ages range from 5 to 13-years-old.