Bridging Gaps and Cultivating Foundation - A 12-week Program for Refugee High School Girls

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  • Self-Identity
  • Social Justice
  • Roots
  • “My Story”

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  • Understanding Gender
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Communication
  • Dating

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  • What breaks your heart?
  • Voice
  • Expression
  • Community

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  • Sense of belonging
  • Path Through Higher Education
  • Balance
  • Mindfulness Practices

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What happens when you put young women leaders in a room for twelve weeks?

Well, you begin to uncover the details of how stories intertwine, ebb and flow, and collectively culminate power that shines through. Past the anger and the struggle of every day. You see the beauty that illuminates the commitment to not give up and walk a path of uncertainty, but one that needs to be walked.Each one of the 7 young African women has a story to tell and have gone to their growth-edge to make sure that they are heard and not silenced. Each one of them has taken time to critically think and engage in their own level of vulnerability to write a piece of their own story to share hoping that it will create change in the way we react, act, and engage in the SLC community.The learnings that came from this course is meant to be intimate and proactive. We encourage you to come wanting to engage in the experiences of these young women knowing that you will learn from them. We thank you in advance for taking the time and sitting with us, as we tell OUR stories.

Who were the Participants?

In total ten young women participated in the program. They came from two different schools and their age range was 15-18yrs. The recruitment of the program was done through word-of-mouth. Though the program sought to have a more diverse group in school/culture/background/life-story — there was limited time to do adequate recruitment. Each of the recruited young women came into the program with their own set of skills and perspectives. The young women proved to be outstanding group to work with. All women were of African families, some were born in the U.S., and all have the ability to talk about the refugee experience, though many of the young women do not self -identify as refugees.*Note: The program flexed with involvement of initial participants, by the end of the 12 weeks, 3 participants had left, but the program gained one new participant later into the program. Seven women participated in their end-of-program event: We as Women all as Women: Shining light on our stories, creating new narrative, listen to our voices.

Educational Component

All the educational material and lessons were built to dissect four themes in the 12 weeks. Those 4 themes can be seen above in MODULES. All educational material was presented with social justice in the forefront of the classroom. All educational material was pulled from previous knowledge of the facilitator; activities, workshops; websites such as: Teaching Tolerance, and books on education and identity.[/et_pb_text][et_pb_testimonial admin_label="Ruth" author="Ruth Arevalo" url_new_window="off" portrait_url="" quote_icon="on" use_background_color="on" background_color="rgba(224,182,92,0.42)" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]Why am I here? Where do I fit into this story? Well…My story and body starts at a confluence of blood that historically and phenotypically were determined by hierarchy and power to not match. This means as I grew I was placed in ambuigity and confusion of where I fit in this world.This… Exacerbated by the death of those who brought me into this world. I laid on the floor as a small child looking into the sky while I felt the whole world falling around me breathing in and out….[/et_pb_testimonial][et_pb_text admin_label="Text2" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]


The aspects of uncovering the layers of identity were fundamental to programming. Exploring the aspects of our identities that put forth contingencies because society has given us a label.Understanding privilege and our own privilege/or not being able to access certain privileges and how that is wrapped into our identities and how to healthily navigate spaces with this knowledge was prioritized.

Safety and Cohesion

Safe and inclusive space, the importance of feeling safe is dire to creating space for communication, growth, and developmentCreating flexibility and space for all to talk, be heard, and to be ok with tensions or disagreements. We understood that conflict is part of growth and conflict resolution allows cohesion and respect between group members.


The base of communication that was set up was implemented with intentional time given to build trust. Weekly check-ins at meetings with active listening and feedback along with outside meeting check-ins once a month by phone to continue to develop rapport and depth to the relationship between participant and facilitator.It was monumental to give and provide space for all feelings, thoughts, and actions to be heard, discussed, and validated.Some of the women had a stronger presence, confidence, and base of knowledge to put to their voice, as some were still growing into how they desire to best express themselves and communicate with others.All participants began to engage in what it meant to have courage to stand up for themselves and also gaining comfort in what it meant to ask for help. Most importantly we continued the conversation of how important voice is for women of color.All participants were expected to work together and use their communication skills to work through frustrations and uncertainty to create a public event at the end of the 12 weeks.The event “We as Women All as Women” show cased the importance of story and provided space for each of the young women to capture one characteristic important to them and use spoken word to express it with a critical and profound lens. The open dialogue that was led by the young women at the end of their performance was to engage the public to ask questions about the importance of why their stories should be heard and why they are using their voices to express the changes they want to see from the perspective of being young African women living in the United States in this very pivotal moment in history.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_testimonial admin_label="Saida" author="Saida" url_new_window="off" portrait_url="" quote_icon="on" use_background_color="on" background_color="rgba(189,143,232,0.62)" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]At the beginning of the 12 weeks I spent with Ruth and the other 8 girls I was very skeptical of what I was getting myself into. Would I be just wasting my time in a boring club listening to people with monochromatic voices talking about challenges women face? I knew all the challenges women face, I face them every single day of my life. Why did I need to talk about it over and over again? I decided to give the group the benefit of the doubt and just go to one meeting. If I didn’t like it I would just stop coming, it was going to be a piece of cake. I would walk in share a few sad stories, listen to people share a few of their sad stories, and I would be out the door. Boy, was I wrong.As soon as I opened the doors of the building where the meetings were held a strange feeling hit me. This feeling was of comfort and understanding. I knew from that moment that this wasn’t just a club where we would sit talking about our feelings. It was a club where we would take ACTION about our feelings. The other 8 girls and I sat down at the table nervous about what was to come. We didn’t know that this 12 weeks program would make us a family.“When I think of this group I think of one word, Diverse. Not only in that we come from different countries around the world, but also that we all have different opinions and outlooks on the world,” said Naima Dahir a group member.This 12 week journey was a pathway to more knowledge for us girls. We learned more than we have ever learned anywhere, including school.“Topics that were covered where, Identity, including the complexities and intersections of identity/ies. The importance of telling your story. What it looks like to advocate for yourself and intervene when you see or are in the situation of injustice.  We talked about racialized and gendered language as well as aspects of healthy relationships and communication,” said Ruth Arevalo the facilitator of the group.At the end of the program us girls organized and held our own get together. We shared stories, poems, dances, and what everyone loved most, the food. The idea behind the event was to have an open conversation of what we all learned together. It was an event that brought women of color together to  showcase our progress and have a good time. For many of the girls in the group they didn’t have a lot of space to talk about what they go through on a daily basis. This helped open up the discussion.“I feel that our message to our audience was fulfilled. And that individuals left our event that night inspired, ready to make moves, transformed and most importantly label free,” said Heba Geiang a group member.  I am very glad I took the risk and joined this group. It was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever gone through. Everyday you can make decision that will change your life. Sometimes you hesitate. I am glad my hesitation lasting for only a second, and I dove right in to pave the way to my future life.Learning about Slope in Math class, Literary Devices in English, and Mitochondria in Science are all very important. But none of those topics will establish the foundation of who we are. Identity, Stories, Relationships, and Communication are what makes us human. We are different people than when we started 12 weeks ago, and we have all changed for the better.[/et_pb_testimonial][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Artistic Workshop in Rug-Making

Artistic workshops are such an important way for the refugee women we work with at Women of the World to feel P1100226empowered. By providing a creative outlet for these women, we are not only opening up space for them to create connections with women from different cultures, they are also able to have space for themselves away from all of the day-to-day stresses to focus on themselves. There is currently a lot of support in the refugee community as far as welfare, jobs, finances, etc. but we believe at Women of the World that mental health is also a very important factor to encourage women and mothers to feel empoweredThis month we held our first creative workshop. We were so lucky to find a wonderful mother named Holly and her three daughters who volunteered their time to build a rug-making workshop for the ladies we work with. I mentioned the need for a creative workshop to Holly and her daughters at our volunteer orientation and then Holly just took it from there!She and her daughters researched the Internet and found directions to make a small rug on Pinterest. P1100238They practiced the instructions and made a demo rug to fit the needs of the women we had discuss women they would be able to host at the event and sent it to us. One of her daughters, Clara, called a grocery store in their neighborhood and procured some old boxes. Holly taped and measured and her daughters cut slits in the boxes.  They had a lot of old sheets but ended up buying some at the DI and tore them into strips. They counted out the strips the night before and bundled them together for 15 women.The workshop was a hit! We had exactly 15 women show up, some with their adorable children. The women were from a variety of countries, Burma, Iraq, Iran, Somalia and more. Some of the women were reallyfocused and made tight, perfect, rugs while others were laughing, chatting, and just having a good tie.Holly’s daughters distracted the kids with blocks and kept them entertained during the entire workshop, allowing the ladies a chance to just let loose and have a good tiP1100227me, or focus on the work they were doing.Holly said “We loved the way they each approached the task so differently - how some were very serious and perhaps it was more of an outlet for them and others saw it more as a time to socialize and have fun.  Both were great.  It was fun to see them interact and though we didn't know their languages, we thought it worked well to have something that didn't need a lot of verbal instruction and that was hands-on and that we could communicate through showing each other.” Also, our ladies where visiting with each other with what little English they could speak and that is what makes our organization great -- we gather ladies from all over the world and help them to understand English by using it.Holly also said that it was an amazing and rare opportunity for her and her girls.  She said “I love seeing them exposed to different people, cultures and religions.  Our girls all came away with a deep respect and love for these women and children, though our time with them was short.  When we walked out of  the building that night, they were unanimous in their reaction of how fun it was and asking when we could do it again.  I wholeheartedly concurred.”We cannot thank Holly and her daughters enough for all of the hard work they put into running this workshop!When the workshop was finished, the ladies were already asking when we would be holding another workshop. P1100240That is where we need your help! We could always use volunteers to use their creative minds to come up with workshops for the refugee women we work with. We also need donors for craft supplies such as yarn, paint, canvas, beads, fabric, etc. Some ideas I have for future workshops are a paint night, budget friendly, homemade, children’s toys and activities, or a jewelry making night. Please let me know if any of those activities interest you or if you have any other ideas for creative workshops. We would like to hold at least one creative workshop a month and are still looking for volunteers to host the September and October artistic workshop.Feel free to contact me, Stefani, at Thank you for putting the time in to read this post, feel free to email me with any suggestions or comments.P1100229P1100236P1100233P1100234

WoW Holiday Celebration featured by local news

After the 4th annual celebration featuring the role models in the refugee community was complete, the WoW Holiday Celebration was featured by the local news.  This celebration highlights the successes and dreams of refugee women in Utah and while showing the organizational capacity of Women of the World for continually recruiting and resourcing the best volunteer talent and opportunities for Utah's refugee women.See these links for the newspaper coverage of the celebration: the celebration, Women of the World recognized:supporting refugee success at the holiday celebrationMs. Manal N. & Siham M. for gaining their citizenship:

America is one of the few countries started on an ideal, the ideal that everyone is created equal and through hard work and imagination you can succeed. Your citizenship is not the end of your path but a beginning, a ticket to opportunity. Naturalized citizens are more aggressive in achieving the American dream and today you join this class of success. However, America also needs you to blend your culture into the melting pot, retaining the best characteristics of both.

 Ms. Ghassak J. for achievement:

The children of our community will always remember their teachers for being confident in their success and giving them the tools to achieve their dreams. Your support of our children to transition into the lifestyle and language of America, along with your patience to their special needs and concerns is both strengthening our community and building a foundation for the future.

Ms. Alaa A. for achievement:

The continuation of your education upon resettlement is made more important in that it continues your expertise in improving enterprise and affairs amongst nations. The more we understand about our similarities and our shared needs, the greater our ability to avoid conflict over resources and settle disputes reasonably, breeding peace in the world.

supporting the success of refugee womenMs. Elisabeth N. for achievement:

Your continued struggles for your family’s well-being have paid off and now you have reached your goal – you have a safe new home and you are working in the service of your family and your community. We are thrilled that you are starting to volunteer alongside those in Women of the World that have helped you – paying forward the kindness you have received.

Ms. Sara A. for achievement:

When people are motivated and hard-working, it shows people around them what is possible and helps them become better. Mentoring others is difficult but fills you with grace and hope. Your commitment to your dreams through preparation at Banking for Women and starting a catering business will pay off for you and your family; your service in the community will help the community grown stronger.

Supporting refugee women holiday celebration volunteersFurthermore, community partners including Ikea and the Salt Lake County were recognized for their continued support of Women of the World and the Annual Holiday Celebration.  It is on the strong support of community organizations like Ikea and the Salt Lake County that Women of the World is able to serve refugee women and keep them on a path toward their self-sufficiency. 

Heartfelt Celebration of Women Refugee Success

It was great to see the room filled with woman, a room shining with beautiful faces and empowerment. Women of the World's Third Annual Celebration was a heartfelt celebration of women refugee success -- some of the success has already been attained, some have nearly reached their goals, and all were very ambitious to have more success.On December 7th, 2013 we celebrated the ladies that have reached to their goals, aims -- ladies that have worked so hard in a short time of being in Utah. It is very important to have a role model in our communities and the women that received the awards are certainly role modelsIMG_4579.To our Utah guests, thank you very much for coming and celebrating the day with your new neighbors. These ladies want to thank you for giving them the chance to come to your country so they rebuild their lives & their children's lives. These ladies are survivor of war, rape, atrocities, and social ostracism and are now working hard to overcome poverty and to acculturate in America.Women Of the World offers the tools these ladies need to reach their goals, like job skills and practical English. We teach them about American laws and regulations, teach them about their human rights to give them the confidence and empower them to succeed.We could not do it without our generous supporters. Every year conflicts around the world create more refugees, but because of the generosity of Utahans, every year a great percentage of refugees come here. If you have not yet given to Women of the World, consider visiting our donation page.




Woman of the Year - Mrs. Lauren Beck

The Woman of the Year is not a figurehead, but a member of the community that offers a light in the darkness, a friend to cut through the loneliness, an advocating voice into the fray.  The Woman of the Year gets results - raising not just those she contacts directly - but the entire community.  Through her efforts, the Woman of the Year makes us believe that we can all achieve our dreams!


Service Award - Mrs. Khawla Salman and Mr. Tleb Mohammad

We offer our deepest gratitude for your generous service as a Women of the World volunteer. Because of the selflessness of people like you, Women of the World has empowered women to gain an economic foothold, begin attaining their voice in the community, and dream of a better life. We always say “pay it forward” and you have – thank you!


English Advancement Award - Mrs. Bae Meh

The single most important factor in determining immigrant success is advancement in English.  For women, English advancement is important in taking back their place as a parent and in stepping out for the first time into the workforce and the community.  Take your voice to the highest peaks and tell posterity your story, what you have accomplished and how you’ll never stop learning and growing.


Citizenship Acknowledgement - Ms. Ban Rasheed

America is one of the few countries started on an ideal, the ideal that everyone is created equal and through hard work and imagination you can succeed.  Your citizenship is not the end of your path but a beginning, a ticket to opportunity.  Naturalized citizens are more aggressive in achieving the American dream and today you join this class of success.  However, America also needs you to blend your culture into the melting pot, retaining the best characteristics of both.


Certificate of Achievement - Miss Ehdaa Al Hashemi, Mrs. Ghassaq Jaffer, Mrs. Jasmin

Success is less inspiration than perspiration and it is your hard work that is being celebrated today.  You have sacrificed time and effort to achieve this pinnacle and because you have worked hard along this journey, this milestone is all the more sweet.  Now look out to the girls in your community and teach them how to succeed -- for it is the achievement that you have helped train -- that is the most rewarding.



IMFT Job Skills Training

IMFT Strategic Programs Group is joining with Women of the World for its Day of Service to teach job skills to refugee women looking for work in the Salt Lake City area.When: Thursday 29 NovTime : 10am - 1pmWhere: Hser Ner Moo Center 479 East 2250 South, South Salt Lake City, UT Job Skills Training*Session 1: Internet Job SearchSession 2: Resume Writing & WordprocessingSession 3: InterviewingSession 4: General Job Skills (How to do a great job!)*Not an IMFT hiring event

Sexual Violence Prevention

The Human Rights Education Project of the Salt Lake City Community Empowerment group collaborated with the Women Of the World Organization to present a workshop about Sexual Violence Prevention last Saturday.

There were 35 people in attendance at the workshop & five different nationalities (Iraq, Jordan, Nepal, Karenni & Karen).  We had 4 interpreters help to get the information to the ladies and men.  The subjects was very interesting, educational, and helpful to them.  They were all involved with reading the stories and discussing the problems, how to prevent them, and what they would do if they had the problem in their house.  The audience was very lively and involved with the material.  When I gave a ride to the ladies, they were talking about it in the car & thanking me for giving them the opportunity to be involved in this subject.

I appreciate the Mayor's Office for giving us the opportunity to do this workshop.  Thank you very much for Alana Kindness & Stephany Murguia for giving the lecture, it was very valuable and the material was very understandable.  Thank you to Amy Wylie for donating the hygiene products to the audience. Thank you very much for the interpreters, for without them, the material would never be understood. P1030887P1030886P1030888P1030882

Eid Celebration

This year the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration after the month-long Ramadan fast, was supplemented by Women of the World's gifts, donations, and community roundtable forum with the Refugee Service Office.  The celebration occurred at the Sugarhouse Park and was very well attended.Traditionally, gifts are given to children for Eid and Women of the World donated toys for both boys and girls and was able to find enough women to donate their lightly used jewelry to give a new necklace or bracelet to each girl.  Clothing and food was donated by Women of the World and dancing and Arabic music was enjoyed by at eid celebration Women of the WorldThe Town Hall style meeting had a lot of good information on housing and social service benefits and we would like to thank Gerald Brown for so patiently listening to the concerns of the members of Women of the World following up on their concerns. 

Employment Seminar

Job Fair for Utah Refugee WomenIn order to start our women in the right direction in the United States, they need to be gainfully employeed.  On Friday, 20 May 2011, with the help of the Department of Workforce Services, Women of the World conducted a workshop to prepare our members for the job hunting and interviewing process.  As an incentive, this workshop was a prerequisite for the job fair to be held the following Saturday.The DWS and Women of the World supplied no-nonsense advice to the refugee community on topics ranging from the proper format of a resume to the value of hygiene and a strong handshake in making a first impression.  WoW members were given handouts constructed directly from the feedback of companies invited to the select job fair.The Women of the World members have numerous differentiating strengths including their language flexibility, strong work-ethic, and happiness with a renewed life in America.  Employers that are willing to help our members better their English skills, develop employment skills, and integrate into their teams will be encouraged by the success their organizations achieve as a result.For more information on how your organization can hire a new refugee client of the Women of the World, feel free to contact us on our contact page or talk to our employment specialist at (801) 648 – WOW2. 

Workshop: Navigating Public Transportation

Women of the World completed a busy month of events with this Friday's Navigating the Public Transportation System, a workshop created in President Samira Harnish's Westside Leadership Institute class project.  The goal of the class was to develop an event that touched on a key obstacle to community building in a community in need.  As Samira has been focused on refugee women's needs, she was quick to offer her community for information on what she has been told is a key obstacle to their development -- transportation.While the Salt Lake City area has an expansive and easy to access public transportation system, there are not many resources on usage for new refugees that may not understand English or metropolitan transportation systems.  Women of the World and the WLI group developed a brief workshop alongside UTA representatives to clarify the routes, pricing, and access to public transportation for the refugee community.

Workshop: Nutrition

Today, Women of the World, in collaboration with Brigham Young University, sponsored a nutrition workshop for women from the Middle East. While the Mediterranean diet has become a successful diet low in fat in the western world, refugees from the region do not always have the ingredients in their transplant communities to accurately represent the native delicacies. This workshop surveyed the women for their nutritional habits in Utah and contrasted them to the habits they had in their native countries.The Nutrition Workshop also highlighted the Mediterranean diet by serving a full meal, prepared by WoW President and Founder Samira Harnish, of traditional Iraqi fare. The women at the workshop enjoyed the dinner and the information and requested a repeat for the community -- the ability to get together with their friends and talk about food, friends, and family. Further information from the survey and the project conducted by BYU will be made available as soon as Women of the World is granted access.

Workshop: Know Your Housing Rights

On April 1, Women of the World in collaboration with the Salt Lake Community Action Program, put on a community workshop that detailed renters housing rights.  Jennie Perez dedicated her time and presented material from the Utah Renters Handbook to a group of over forty participants.  Questions ranged from the proper way to dispute claims to landlord bias and discrimination.Each member of the WoW community was invited to a post-workshop banquet prepared by Women of the World founder Samira Harnish and to help themselves to donations of clothing and toys.  Women of the World distributed gifts of towels, sundries, and shopping bags donated by WoW and the LDS Humanitarian Center.WoW would like to thank Jennie Perez, the Salt Lake Community Action Program, and the LDS Humanitarian Center for their generous support of this program and to the Horizonte School for its continued housing of these special educational events.

Workshop: Breast Cancer Awareness

The Women of the World was proud to sponsor the translation and to help with the organization of the first Multicultural Breast Cancer Awareness workshop.  Breast cancer is a key concern with the refugee communities since early detection and reporting is less prevalent in cultures where women do not discuss breast health in any company, but especially where jargon or gender roles make women feel extremely uncomfortable.  The Multicultural Breast Cancer Awareness Seminar aims to eliminate technical jargon while furthering Breast Cancer Awareness in our community members' native languages.  The Women of the World supported translation in Arabic while other communities added Swahili, Karen, Somali and Nepali.Overall, this workshop shows the key role that Women of the World plays in blending the cultural conservatism of refugee women with their need for information critical to maintaining the communities health.

Women of the World Grand Opening Tea Party

On Saturday at 2 pm, the Women of the World held their grand opening celebration for their clients that included over sixty refugee women from various countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  The event allowed the women to relax with a cup of tea and have a conversation with women from a different background while their children were playing with Women of the World volunteers.The women shared in a light afternoon snack and tea before they were informed of the vision of the Women of the World Organization by the founder and president, Samira Harnish.  Samira's speech contained an inspirational story of her struggles to achieve her dream of education and become an engineer and how she found her way back to the service of women in need.  Samira shared how the mission of WoW, to support women of all nations to achieve their dreams, was "not hyperbole, but possible.  That women's dreams of education, employment, and entrepreneurship could be achieved if we "put our hands together to break through the obstacles in front of us."  Samira went on to discuss the programs that will at first help refugee women to resettle in America (home visits, transportation, medical, and ESL classes) and then develop their skills for employment, educational assistance, or entrepreneurship.  Finally, Samira called us all to service, "to help the woman next to you, and women all over the world, to shine."The fun had just started as the Women of the World kicked off their service to the community by having a free drawing for fivebeautiful blankets donated by Amy Wylie.  The Board Of Directors of Women of the World donated tea cups filled with chocolates to those in attendance and treat bags for their children.  Finally, the mothers received a generous donation of clothing and shoes for their children.  These clothes were again donated by Amy Wylie.The Women of the World would like to thank all of those in attendance and all of those that donated their time, efforts, and gifts to this wonderful event.  We have just started but we are confident that with hard work and a desire to improve the status of all women, we will achieve our dreams.