Student-run organization bridging gap for refugees

The student-led nonprofit Partners in Engaging and Empowering Refugees seeks to help educate refugee children to make ease their transition. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Refugee children have to adapt to the various differences of dealing with life in a new country. 

Partners for Engaging and Empowering Refugees (P.E.E.R.), a nonprofit organization run by USF student and Executive Director Riyza Jose, is helping to bridge that gap.

Started in fall 2016, P.E.E.R. is separate from USF, but is run by USF volunteers.

 “P.E.E.R. is a collaboration between refugee service providers in the Temple Terrace area,” Jose said.

In short, P.E.E.R. is a tutoring program for refugee youth around USF. The group helps refugees from countries such as Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Jose said she started off by networking in the area with other USF students who had worked with local service providers, making it a very diverse group. These students decided to come together and make an official tutoring program for these children.

She then thought to make it an actual organization that was bigger than just tutoring services to youth, but also to provide different kinds of services for them. 

These youth programs that benefit refugee children have been defunded in the last summer by other refugee agencies, according to Jose. 

The organization has two goals it is trying to accomplish with P.E.E.R. The first being that the kids it helps are thriving academically and socially. P.E.E.R. wants to make sure the children understand the flow of the classroom, and help them overcome the cultural differences they face coming from another country.

The other goal involves the families of the refugee children. They want to make sure the families of the children can be self-sufficient. P.E.E.R. is also tied to a local women’s social group that teaches refugee women about local healthcare in the Tampa Bay area.

Jose said the organization has had up to 40 volunteers in the past academic year, but they have not all been consistent. 

“The way they go about recruiting people for volunteers is difficult because they need more consistency,” Jose said.

P.E.E.R. said it does not have a solid recruiting process yet because it is trying to make sure its programs are viable and that it can continue to exist.

 In the upcoming semester, Jose said the organization is “trying to approach these things differently.”

For example, Jose said P.E.E.R. plans to go to different colleges around campus and send out notices.

Jose said she is also going to be linking with local high schools in the area in hopes of finding more reliable volunteers. 

She said by this summer, however, P.E.E.R. will have an official website for those who are interested.