Preventing Refugee Kids from Being Bullied

We Have Their Back

“It’s no surprise: migrant and refugee children face higher rates of bullying. The social costs of bullying are also high: bullied children face a greater risk of poor health, internalized stress, and suicidal thoughts.”   —

ICNA Relief’s Refugee Outreach Coordinator Sr. Leila Elfane in New Jersey is doing her best to help both families and schools resolve prejudice-based bullying in her state.Sr. Leila had an appointment this past December with a school In Elizabeth, NJ. The school staff greeted her with relief, “Are you the Leila that is helping the refugee families?” she recalled them asking her. “Oh my God, we were looking for you!” The staff member called all the teachers and even the nurse to talk to Sr. Leila.”Alhamdulilah in one visit, I was able to help so many teachers get information and express their concerns about certain things that happened in school,” she said.
For example, there was a Syrian child that was constantly fighting with others in school. “No one knew that something was bothering him,” Sr. Leila said. “Unfortunately, he does not speak English so he doesn’t understand the consequences of his behavior. I called the family and sat with them to explain.”
The child started crying and told Sr. Leila that two kids in his class were bullying him saying “Go back to Syria” and “Syria is garbage.” That is what triggered his aggressive behavior. He tried to explain this to his teacher but she didn’t understand him. So he was always blamed as the one “looking for trouble.”

“After ICNA Relief visited the school, the school wrote a report against the two boys and they eventually came to apologize to him,” Sr. Leila said. “When the teachers see there is someone behind the kids, they make more effort to help Syrian refugees. Now they see these kids as a priority. ICNA Relief is here so they know there is someone looking out for the kids.”