A new purpose in life

Stuart Hughes

One woman took matters into her own hands when it came to making others feel welcome.

According to Luma Mufleh, refugee soccer team founder/coach, and award winning humanitarian, to change the world, start small but think big. Her speech on Nov. 9 attributed high expectations and lots of support to creating a productive and diverse community.

Mufleh’s life has been the focus of national media attention and is the subject of a soon-to-be Hollywood movie. She recently spoke at Frost Arena to a community much like her adopted home of Clarkston, Ga.

Eastern South Dakota, like Clarkston, hosts a significant refugee population living among a population not traditionally known for its diversity.

Mufleh was born and raised in Amman, Jordan. As an immigrant herself, she said she could understand what others were going through. When she found a rag-tag group of soccer players who needed some direction she took on the challenge.

“I knew what it felt like to not completely belong,” she said. “These kids are expected to come here and succeed, but they don’t have any support. I see our kids succeed when they are nurtured.”

Mufleh saw a need in Georgia refugee’s lives and formed a neighborhood soccer team. She soon saw there was a need for more than an after-school sport.

Mufleh set out to coach soccer, but soon became the cornerstone of an immigrant community, employing refugees to clean houses for a living wage, and closing the doors of her coffee shop to work full-time with young immigrants and their families.

Refugees receive six-months of government assistance, then are left to find their own way in a foreign country. Many of them have survived horrific loss and tragedy in their war-torn homelands.

Often they find themselves in exploitative jobs working long hours for low pay but don’t have the experience to realize they are being cheated.

Her “Fugees” after school academic programs tutor refugees in math, english and many other skills recent immigrants need to succeed in America. The first Fugee graduated from college last May. 18 more are now pursuing degrees.

Mufleh’s purpose in life, affects many peoples’ lives in a profound way, she said she began with a soccer match played with makeshift goalposts and it grew into an organization dedicated to helping others. She implored her audience to find their purpose.

“Life is pretty remarkable, it’s also pretty short,” she said.