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Country Schoolers Run for Refugees

by Liz Lightfoot '77 P '05, '07, '08, '12
Alumni Relations, Community Outreach, and IDEA Parent-Teacher Alliance

Country School students, alumni, parents, and faculty members were among the 3,000+ athletes who participated in the IRIS Run for Refugees 5K in New Haven last Sunday, supporting the ongoing effort by IRIS — or Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services — to assist newly resettled refugee and immigrant families. This was the second year in a row that The Country School fielded a team of runners at the IRIS 5K. This year, in addition to current students (all of whom finished in the top 20 in their age groups), the Country School team was joined by alumni Graham Keating '15, Alastair Clements '08, and Graeme Clements '05 and their friends and families.

The Country School participation in the Run for Refugees is part of an ongoing relationship with IRIS. On February 28, Will Kneerim, director of Education and Employment at IRIS, will join us as the featured speaker at our Multicultural Dinner. Will, who has been a presenter, panelist and moderator at universities and conferences around the United States and has represented IRIS in articles in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Times, NPR, Fox News CT, among others, will talk about the way food can act as a bridge across cultures, brokering international and local connections through shared meals. All are welcome to join us - register here.

Last year, on IDEA Day, The Country School welcomed Mohamed Hamou, a 7th Grader from Old Lyme who was resettled by IRIS after having to flee Syria with his family. Mohamed also delivered a TEDx talk at our 2018 TEDxTheCountrySchool conference (click here.) Last spring, Nour Al Zouabi, also a former refugee from Syria who was resettled by IRIS, spoke with students about her efforts to support children in crisis across the globe through UNICEF (read story). A few weeks later, Nour’s mother, Abir, joined us at CountryStock to apply henna designs.

Nour Al Zouabi delivers her Elmore Leadership talk in DeFrancis Gymnasium (left),
while her mother, Abir, applies a henna-style flower at Countrystock (right).

For the last three winters, the Country School community has generously conducted a winter clothing drive to support IRIS families, collecting boxes and bags filled with hats, coats, mittens, scarves, and boots to keep newly resettled families warm. 

Liz Lightfoot '77, P '05, '07, '08, '12, Alumni Relations and Community Outreach,
Samira Souley Hassane, and Honor Clements '12 deliver a huge box
of donations from The Country School to IRIS earlier this winter. 

Members of the Country School alumni community have also supported IRIS's work as interns, with Ben Ballard ’08 interning at IRIS in the marketing department while he was also planning our 2018 TEDx conference, and Gabby LaTorre ’13 interning as an English language teacher last summer (read more).

Congratulations and thank you to all of the athletes who participated in the Run for Refugees this winter. Among the finishes recorded by Country School students were: 3rd place (and a trophy) in the girls 12 and under division (congrats, Laila G. - 3rd Grade); 4th, 6th, 7th, and 18th places in the boys 12 and under division (congrats, Sam D. - 6th Grade, Gabriel G. - 6th Grade, Keve F. - 4th Grade, and Tash F. - 2nd Grade); and 13th in the boys 13-19 division (congrats, John R. - 8th Grade). In addition to fees raised by their race participation, members of the Country School team also donated $375 to support IRIS's work.

Our trophy winner.


A little cross country pep talk before the race with Coach Fixx.

The mission of IRIS is to enable refugees and other displaced people to establish new lives, regain hope, and contribute to the vitality of Connecticut’s communities. Last year, IRIS served more than 2,000 immigrants and welcomed over 280 newly arrived refugees. Refugees are men, women, and children who fled their countries of origin due to persecution on the basis of their race, nationality, religious belief, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Currently, IRIS’s refugee clients come from Syria, Afghanistan, Congo, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, as well as other countries. IRIS provides refugees with housing, food, clothing, and services such as education, English training, job preparation and placement, health care, and immigration legal aid.

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