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  • Writer's pictureREACH

A Young Refugee’s Journey Getting Comfortable Outdoors

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

By Ellie White, Free Forest School Blog - Lina moved with her family to Chicago from Iraq when she was eight years old. She notes that, when she moved, “everything was just so different and strange and bizarre [...] I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anything about where I was. I was scared to do anything and everything.”

After a horrible first day of school, Lina spent her time either at home or in class – she was lonely. Leaving the house, even with her family, made her feel uncomfortable.

This experience of isolation and overwhelm is a reality for many kids and families who are resettling into a new country. Lina’s story shows how valuable it is to remove barriers and promote access to community connection and welcoming outdoor experiences for refugee youth.

Lina’s world started changing when she began having regular time in nature with other kids in a way that honored her background and experiences. A few years after that first day of school in Chicago, with her mom’s insistence, Lina started participating in REACH (Refugee Education & Adventure Challenge), an outdoor adventure program for refugee youth.

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