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Reaching Out to Refugee Girls


By Renae Ninneman, Program and Outreach Coordinator in Lincoln

Refugee middle and high school girls have a unique struggle. Not only do they face the same regular “girl struggles” as their native-born sisters, they face them with extra barriers. It’s hard to balance a life between two cultures, all while learning a new language and being a teenager.

We are so thrilled to announce that a new grant from the Nebraska Crime Commission will provide our unique Girl Scout Leadership Experience to refugee girls in grades six through 12 in Lincoln!  

Girls Scouts can offer these unique girls a space to feel comfortable in their new home, and give them an opportunity to grow their leadership skills.

Nebraska is a hot spot for refugee resettlement. Our state has become fifth in the nation in refugee resettlement per capita. Typically, we welcome 700-850 refugees to Nebraska each year; people who fly to Nebraska directly from their refugee camps. We also welcome many refugees as secondary migrants, which means they were resettled in another state, but decided to move to Nebraska.

Our state has many jobs and a low cost-of-living, and that appeals to many people, refugees included.

I have either volunteered or worked with refugees for the better part of a decade, and I am excited to head up this new project. Through my work, I know that not everyone understands what it means to be a refugee. A lot of people use the word, and they know it refers to a person who moved to the United States from another country, but not everyone knows WHY refugees come to the US.

The United Nations defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”

Refugees are a special type of legal immigrant.

Right now, according to the United Nations, there are around 21.3 million refugees around the world. Fifty-four percent of those come from Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. Syria itself has generated 5.5 million refugees. The United States typically resettles between 60,000-70,000 refugees per year across the country, so you can see that we take only a small fraction of the refugees from around the globe. You can also see how the terrible conflicts and wars around the world can affect our lives in multiple ways and the positive humanitarian impact of bringing the survivors to our cities.

The world is a small place! Girl Scouts is lucky to be able to begin working with this unique group of girl leaders in Lincoln.

Please contact me if you are interested in volunteering to lead these refugee Girl Scouts, or if you have questions about our new program.