GirlForward: Helping Refugee Girls in the Chicago Area

“Refugees are your neighbors,” Ashley Marine, Director of Programs at GirlForward (GF), said.

GirlForward is an organization dedicated to helping refugee girls in the Chicago area. It connects disadvantaged girls and women with resources, and provides a wonderful volunteer opportunity for students, all within a mile from campus.

Their Mission Statement: “GirlForward is a community of support dedicated to creating and enhancing opportunities for girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution.”

“Immigrant issues are at the forefront of people’s minds,” said Carly Behme, a senior journalism major at Loyola and intern with GirlForward.

Behm chose the communications internship at GirlForward because she felt a sense of community.

Behm is currently working on a podcast series “GirlForward Stories,” sharing the journey of different girls from GF and how they came to Chicago.

Ashley Marine, masters in social work, loves the vision of GF.

“I wanted to be part of multicultural spaces, international populations,” Marine said. “I also knew that I wanted to work with girls in a female-identifying space, and working to address situations that are gender-based.”

Marine said the hardest obstacle the leaders of GF have faced is creating a sustainable non-profit organization.

 

 

“We’ve always had a great vision,” Marine said, “but it’s about implementing that vision in a way that is ethical, sustainable and culturally humble, and making sure we have the money to keep it alive.”

The organization will accept any girl that falls under their definition of refugee– “girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution– and Marine noted that the definition can have different interpretations and may not always align with the legal definition of refugee.

“I think we built a really great organization that is girl-informed,” Marine said, “so girls have a say in what we do and they help to direct our work, but we’d really love to be an organization that’s girl-led.”

The organization strives to help girls with three different programs: a mentoring program, education program, and safe spaces program.

 

Nicole Farolan is a sophomore Loyola student who volunteers as a tutor for GF.

“I feel like I’m learning a lot more than what I’m giving to them,” Farolan said.

GF is located within a mile from campus and is always looking for new volunteers.

“Girls are especially vulnerable,” Behm said, “and GirlForward is a place where they can come to be themselves and get the support they need.”

*all images taken from https://www.girlforward.org/press/