In 2002, a recently arrived refugee in Memphis spoke out about the exceptional need for educational support in the refugee community, and for the need of increased connection between the refugee and American communities. As this refugee struggled to balance the new demands of employment, learning a new language, and acclimating to a new culture, she saw that the struggles of others in her community were nearly identical to her own, and that Memphians seemed relatively oblivious to their plight. Out of this concern grew a collaborative Americans and refugees interested in improving the educational welfare and support of refugees. Starting with twelve children and two volunteers, REP has since grown into a staff of three serving a community of over 400 individuals alongside hundreds of volunteers each year. A commitment to provide quality programs led REP to become an operational program of the Memphis Leadership Foundation in October of 2007.
The vision of Refugee Empowerment Program is to empower the refugee community by encouraging, educating, and equipping individual refugees, refugee families, and the refugee community. Through REP’s after school programs, summer programs, adult education program, character education classes for adolescents, college preparation classes, Pre-GED classes for adults, a women's leadership program, and Bible studies for youth and adults, refugees in Memphis have greater opportunities to become self-sufficient and independent in their new lives. Ultimately, REP seeks to become an organization run by refugees serving other refugees.
Who we are:
Who does REP serve?
REP serves refugees in Memphis. Each year, between 200 and 400 refugees, mostly from Africa and Asia, are resettled here in our city.
What is a refugee?
A refugee, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, is someone who, due to “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
Memphis receives refugees because it has the infrastructure to do so. Memphis is home to the resettlement agency World Relief, which helps in this process.
What we do:
REP serves refugees in many ways. Our three main programs are our afterschool program for PK to 12th grade youth, our adult ESL program, and our Summer Enrichment Program for 3rd grade to 12th grade students.
As the majority of REP youth participants have had little to no previous access to formalized education, educationally-based programs remain the primary focus of REP. REP’s academically-focused after-school program is offered Monday – Thursday from 3:00pm – 7:00pm currently to 250 refugee students grades PK - 12. With the assistance and guidance of REP staff and volunteers, students in the after-school program complete homework and school projects, develop math and language skills, read books, and have access to computers and the internet.
For adult refugees, learning English is one of the most important steps they must take upon arriving in the U.S. In order to assist in that process, REP provides a multi-leveled ESL program for 100-150 adult students each week. This program runs Monday to Thursday, from 10:00 to 11:30 am and from 5:30 to 7:00 pm and includes three levels of English language instruction and a pre-GED program.
During June and July, our Summer Enrichment Program, which focuses on math and English, is offered for participant youth for eight weeks. The objective is to help prepare students for the up-coming school year. Programming runs from 11:00am – 3:00pm, Monday – Thursday with field trips and special excursions offered on Fridays.