Extraordinary things happen when girls come together. Extraordinary things happen when girls come together in a safe space where they can explore themselves, their imagination, and share common experiences.
Nowhere was that more evident than last week, in Oakland, CA, when we did Vision Not Victim with a group of some of the most powerful, thoughtful, curious, creative resettled refugee girls.
Partnering with the International Rescue Committee, who resettled many of the girls and their families, we brought together 15 girls from 8 different countries. With 3-4 languages being spoken in the room (we had outstanding interpreters), it was incredible to witness the joy and solidarity that emerged when these girls were able to share common experiences and stories – to talk amongst themselves about what it was like to be a refugee, what it was like to be resettled in the US, what it was like to feel on the outside at school or in the community or even at home.
Throughout the week of creative activities, girls who had been in the US for longer (some girls have been living in Oakland for years, some just arrived), gave advice and encouragement to others. Girls shared their stories with the group and our mentors for the week – successful women from a range of fields: from architecture and medicine, to education, entrepreneurship, and business, to radio broadcast and psychology. The mayor of Oakland -Libby Schaaf – even stopped by to talk about being a woman in politics. A particularly moving moment occurred when, Shamila, an eighteen-year-old from Afghanistan, learned that one of our mentors – a lawyer whose family is from Iran – could speak her language. Her face lit up, as the two of them swapped stories in Farsi.
Now, in our first week of photo shoots, the girls are continuing to meet, to plan, to fight, to grow, to explore with, and draw strength from one another. Stay tuned for to see and hear more about these phenomenal girls and their visions for their future.