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Meet Coach Luma Mufleh, the Fugees Family, and her Incredible Mission to help Child Survivors of War.
Once upon a time there a was a young woman who accidentally turned down the wrong street on her drive home and stumbled upon a diverse group of kids playing soccer in a parking lot. Most were barefoot and they were using rocks as goals. “They didn’t look American, It’s a scene I’ve seen over and over again in Jordan or other parts of the world, but not in the United States”. says Coach Luma Mufleh.
Luma Mufleh stated that the scene left an impression, and a few days later she returned with a soccer ball. She offered the ball in return for a chance to play soccer with them.
She didn't know it at the time, but that the “wrong turn” on that fateful day would change her life and the lives of many others forever. Meet Luma Mufleh.
Luma Mufleh, who recently became a US citizen, was born in Amman, Jordan. She came to the United States to attend Smith College, in 1993. After graduating, she eventually ended up with a job in Clarkston, GA, a small community just outside of Atlanta.
It was in Clarkston, in 2004, where she made the “wrong turn" and started her "pickup game" in the parking lot with a group kids who were not exactly locals. So how did all of these kids, with backgrounds that stretched from one end of the earth to the other end up in Clarkston? As it turns out, Clarkston, GA is one of 350 U.S. cities that shelters child survivors of war, "refugees" from other countries...
As it so happens, "Coach" Mufleh had already been a girls soccer coach, and now she would coach "The Fugees" and compete all over Georgia. Under Coach Mufleh, boys from all over the world would play on the same team. "Africans and Asians, Northern and Southern Sudanese, Muslims and Christians, Sunni and Shia Muslims - they all play on the same team, finding their commonalities instead of focusing on their differences." says Coach Mufleh. "Their bonds make them more secure in their own identity and more capable of acclimating to the mainstream".
Beyond the Soccer Field
But it was clear during that very first season the boys needed more than just bonding. They were put into the public school system and expected to learn Algebra and read Shakespeare. Most of them literally grew up in refugee camps in other parts of the world, how could they possibly catch up on years of lost education taught in a foreign language. "They were falling through the cracks". says Luma. She was repeatedly asked to help with schoolwork evenings after the soccer games had ended.....
“From that soccer game came our first team, when that team was having trouble in school we started a tutoring program, and when it became clear that tutoring wasn’t enough we started a school.” -- Coach Mufleh
In addition to a full academic year of hard study and discipline, including uniforms with ties (Coach Mufleh does not go easy on these kids), they also run an academic "boot camp" every summer at Agnes Scott College. The college is 8 miles away, and since the program is up to 80 kids, and their only bus accommodates 14 kids, they ride their bikes.
Field of Dreams
This Fall opens the 6th year of the Academy, The Fugees Academy expects to have 55 6th-9th grade students enrolled, which for now, is temporarily using rented church space. "For the first time in the school's history, we will have to turn children away, we simply don't have the physical space to accommodate our growing needs" says Coach Luma.
But there is hope. With the use of private donations (The FUGEES FAMILY accepts no government financial aid), they were able to acquire 19 acres of foreclosed land that is to be used as the school's permanent facility site -- "The Fugees Village".
Coach Luma Mufleh Dreams not only for her own children, but also for the children in the other 349 cities I mentioned earlier. A Dream that the Fugees Academy, and the proposed Fugees Village, will become a National Model on how to successfully teach and acclimate Child War Survivors from around the world into the mainstream.
Ways to Help
The Fugees Family have a long way to go, but there is strong support behind them and even talk of a movie deal. There are several ways you can help if you are interested --