Country School Students Run to Support Refugees

When Sam D., a 5th Grader, learned about the opportunity to participate in the IRIS Run for Refugees last weekend, he asked his mother to please register him for the 5K road race. During The Country School's recent IDEA Day, Sam had heard from Mohamed Hamou, a 7th Grader whose family had come to Connecticut as refugees from Syria, and he wanted to run to show his support for Mohamed and others like him.

On Sunday, Sam laced up his running shoes, joining several Country School cross country teammates and their parents, along with some 3,000 other people to run or walk in the road race, raising funds for IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services). A talented runner who competed recently at cross country Junior Olympics Nationals in Reno, Nevada, Sam ran hard, ultimately winning a trophy for having the third-fastest time in the 12-and-under male division. (He had the fastest time of all 10 year olds.) Joining Sam with a trophy was Tessa B., a 12-year-old 7th Grader, who was third in the 12-and-under age group for females.

Sam and his trophy at the award ceremony.


Tessa and her trophy.


Philip W., a 14-year-old 8th Grader, was 18th in the 13-19 male category and the first 14-year-old male to finish. His teammate, 7th Grader John R., 13 years old, was 33rd in the 13-19 male category and the first 13 year old to finish.

Miklosh F., age 10 and a 5th Grader, just missed a trophy, finishing as the fourth male in the 12-and-under category. He was the second 10 year old male runner, behind Sam. Margaux S., an 8th Grader, finished eighth in the 13-19 category for females. Tash F., age 6, ran the entire 5K with a smile on his face, finishing 18th in the under-12 age group and running a 5K in just about 32 minutes.

One of the Country School parents who ran was Mary Didiuk, a Country School trustee. "Today I was so proud of the kids, families from The Country School and everywhere who ran to support the refugees," she wrote in a Facebook post (published here with her permission). "At the starting line, the Yale Chorus sang a song with the words from the Statue of Liberty, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.' And I started to think about my dad and how he came here with $17 in his pocket and a dream for a better life. He would always tell me, 'You kids are so lucky. You don't even understand how great America is because you always had it. Always be proud to me an American.' And I felt like I ran with him today. I usually don't post photos of myself but my dear friend Amanda sent me this photo of me at the finish so I am sharing it and hope that you take a second to remember how lucky we are and how we need to help those who are not because this is what built this wonderful country."

Mary crosses the finish line.

The Run for Refugees, held each February in New Haven for the last 13 years, raises public awareness of the U.S. resettlement program and raises vital funds to support services for refugees and immigrants who are starting new lives in Connecticut. Mohamed Hamou, his parents, brother, and sister were among the refugees resettled by IRIS in 2016. A speaker at The Country School's 2018 TEDx conference, Mohamed returned to campus to talk with students at the end of this year's IDEA Day (Interpreting Diversity Education through Action), a day of workshops held annually year to coincide with Martin Luther King Day. The theme of IDEA Day this year was stories — that we each have our own unique stories and that when we share them, we find connection. Starting the day with Mohamed's TEDx talk and ending it with a visit from Mohamed himself was a perfect way to illustrate this year's theme. And clearly connections were made.

Mohamed, second from left, and some of his Country School friends at IDEA Day.
Watch Mohamed's TEDx talk, Coming to America

Thank you to Sam and all the other members of the Country School community who made connections this weekend at the 2019 Run for Refugees!

Can you spot Margaux, Tessa, and Miklosh among the sea of runners in this photo from the New Haven Register?