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November 09, 2023

Lauren Howe for Hello Future

It all starts with confidence — the most essential skill that is overlooked.

When refugee crises emerge, the rush to meet the population’s basic needs is understandable. Health, food, safety and housing are fundamental human needs that must be prioritized. But as crises drag on and time in refugee camps evolves into the new normal, long-term needs are often left uncared for.

This is an especially dangerous reality for teenagers, who are at a critical time in their educational development and at risk of seeing their dreams disappear forever. Uncertainty can be detrimental to confidence, particularly for young people already navigating a critical phase of identity formation and self-discovery. In turn, it can lead to self-doubt, alienation and the loss of one’s sense of purpose.

Confidence, therefore, becomes critical for both professional and personal growth, but few programs are created with that in mind. Hello Future is committed to restoring its student’s sense of hope while grounding their learnings in 21st-century skills so that they can thrive educationally and develop resilience and enhance their emotional well-being. Confidence plays a pivotal role in enabling teens to engage in social interactions. Without confidence, the fear of rejection or discrimination can deter them from engaging with their peers or participating in extracurricular activities. Conversely, bolstered confidence can empower refugee youth to bridge cultural divides, contribute positively to their communities, and embrace their unique cultural backgrounds as sources of strength and pride.

Mahi, one of Hello Future’s students happily found herself accepted into the American University of Sulaymaniah (AUIS) with a full scholarship last year. She was thrilled but scared at the same time. She has spent the last 5 years of her life living in a refugee camp. AUIS is one of the best universities in Iraq and attracts students from all over the region. Would she be able to manage the coursework? How would her classmates view her? What will life be like living on campus, away from her family? 

In many ways, Mahi’s fears and worries are common. In Mahi’s case, she has the added burden of being a refugee and the prejudice that could come with it. 

Mahi found herself well-prepared for her first year of university. The style of learning at AUIS is similar to the teaching and learning at Hello Future. She also discovered that she actually knew more than her same-age non-refugee peers and that gave her an immense confidence boost, allowing her to settle into her new life and identity as a college student. 

Hello Future students have experienced a 60 percent increase in their confidence thanks to a series of classes focused on cultivating their communication skills and storytelling. Moreover, 77 percent of parents mentioned that after participating in the Hello Future program, their kids have improved in communicating their ideas, being more courageous in stating their opinions and socializing with their peers and other members of the community.

Beyond immediate integration, building confidence in refugee youth has far-reaching implications for their long-term prospects. The world is in the midst of a youth-driven transformation, where innovation, leadership, and change are often initiated by the younger generations. However, currently, only 41 percent of refugee youth achieve any secondary education. This reality risks losing an entire generation and creating a monumental gap in our global development.

Hello Future works tirelessly to prevent this by engaging refugee teens in a series of classes focused on teaching an array of skills needed to compete in today’s economy, namely digital literacy, financial literacy, leadership skills, and critical thinking and problem-solving. Proficiency in these areas transcends simply navigating the internet or organizing finances. It manifests into a combination of hard and soft skills that result in the confidence to propose and build upon original and unique ideas. In fact, 60 percent of Hello Future parents notice that their kids are showing more passion towards topics they’re interested in.

Moreover, Hello Future ensures that its students are attentively supported by local, in-classroom instructors so that their ideas can be realized in their fullest forms. By nurturing their self-assurance, we provide them with the tools and confidence to overcome adversity, integrate into new communities and thrive anywhere. Through targeted efforts, Hello Future is helping transform the narrative of refugee youth from victimhood and despair to resilience, confidence, and purpose, ensuring that they stand as survivors of trauma and catalysts for positive change.

More About Hello Future:

Founded in 2016, Hello Future is a nonprofit organization that bridges the education gap for adolescent refugees. Hello Future aims to create a new path forward for refugee youth — a new model that starts with education and leads to self-reliance. 


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