By: Courtney Klein, Co-Founder & CEO of SEED SPOT
Imagine being displaced from your home country and forced to live abroad, unfamiliar with local customs and unable to speak the language. How would you navigate your new country’s complex systems to build a stable and empowering future for your family? While volunteering with Refugee Focus, Grace Morse witnessed a displaced Syrian family grapple with limited access to medical care when resettled in Phoenix, Arizona.
The family’s five year-old son experienced a medical emergency due to a heart defect caused by Down syndrome, leaving them stranded without the transportation or translation services to secure medical care. Witnessing this heart-wrenching experience moved Grace to research other challenges recently resettled refugees face when establishing themselves in a new country. Her findings indicated that difficulty gaining employment was a major hurdle in feeling safe and connected within their new communities.
In 2016, 4,110 of the 84,995 refugees admitted into the United States were resettled in Arizona. Upon arrival, each individual refugee receives a one-time payment of $925 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - enough for a small family to afford rent for three months. As these funds dwindle, pressure mounts to find a job that pays for basic necessities.
During her Senior Year at Mountain View High School, Grace partnered with one of her peers, Brianna Cavazos, to co-found REFUresource, a startup dedicated to reach, empower, finance, and unite refugees relocated in the United States. Their website would be available in Arabic, Swahili, English, and Spanish, and would allow refugees to upload their employment assessments into a query that matches their skill sets with employers hiring nearby.
“Many large companies including Chobani and Starbucks are pledging to work with refugees because they know how well-trained and educated many of them were in their home countries,” Grace says, “they are fleeing conflict, want to provide better opportunities for their family, and want to thank the U.S. for taking them in. Refugees are humans, and have dreams and hopes just like we do.”
Grace and Brianna cultivated their idea while participating in our SEED SPOT Schools program - a curriculum aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that integrates entrepreneurship, STEM, and design-thinking. Students are empowered to create market-based solutions for local and global issues such as widening inequalities, unemployment, and poverty.
Grace reflected that “SEED SPOT encouraged us to branch outside of the classroom and consider how we can better the world by doing something selfless for others.” Committed to solving Goal 8 of the SDGs, the passionate entrepreneurs pitched their ideas for achieving decent and productive employment for refugee women and men to a sold-out audience of hundreds at SEED SPOT’s High School Demo Day in May.
As they head to college in the fall, Grace will continue growing REFUresource at Asbury University in Kentucky with the help of her university professors and local refugee organizations. Grace and Brianna hope to pitch REFUresource at an upcoming coding competition to work with professional coders in maximizing their website’s impact.
SEED SPOT is committed to working with more students like Grace and Brianna to help drive solutions to the problems they are identifying in the world. If you would like to support REFUresource’s efforts, you can contact them at REFUresource@gmail.com. If there are young people in your life that we can serve through our SEED SPOT Schools program, visit https://seedspot.org/schools today.