According to the Center for Immigration Studies, in FY 2019, (October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019), a total of 30,000 refugees were resettled in the United States. Once they gain entrance to the country, refugees need assistance with basics such as affordable housing, school supplies, English language acquisition, and finding a job.
A group of Wellesley High School students searching for a way to help hit upon the idea of starting a non-profit that would tackle the most pressing needs of the newly arrived. Ela Eryilmaz, Lauren Pryor, and Isabella Remedios, along with several additional WHS students, have started a non-profit called Next Page, created to help refugees thrive after they go through the initial resettlement process and start work toward putting down roots in a community. The goal of Next Page is to donate funds to local shelters and programs that provide English as an Additional Language classes, job opportunities, housing, and other services that help refugees turn the next page in the current chapter of their lives.
To raise funds the organization connects artisans and buyers through Instagram (@officialnextpage), and soon to an e-commerce website. Part of the money from the art pieces sold will go to the artist, generally a creative with a strong belief in Next Page’s mission (seven artists have so far signed on). Part of the funds raised will be used by Next Page in order to continue their social impact work. The main revenue needs are those to create the e-commerce website, register as a 501(c)(3), and buy items to donate to the programs and shelters.
The groups that Next Page are working with are the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; The Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center; and the International Institute of New England; all with locations in Boston.
Eryilmaz, a rising junior who is fluent in both English and Turkish, says she is drawn to helping refugees, as she has seen at least part of their journey first-hand. She was so moved by her experiences in Turkey that she wrote a poem that reads in in part, “The elderly had sorrow in their eyes, staring at the sea with memories of the abandoned homeland./Kids played with deflated balls, broken plastic cars, reusable water bottles, rocks, old books — not understanding the situation./What we saw in the pictures became a reality/We drove to the villages on the mountain tops…”
The US Department of Homeland Security defines a refugee as “a person outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
Eryilmaz doesn’t quibble with that definition, but she finds inspiration in author Khaled Hosseini’s broader view of the matter: “Refugees are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, with the same hopes and ambitions as us—except that a twist of fate has bound their lives to a global refugee crisis on an unprecedented scale.”