Luma Mufleh is the CEO and Founding Director of Fugees Family, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps refugees have a new start in the United States through soccer and education.
Read the interview below to learn more about her inspiring story and the impact The Fugees is having in the community.
Question: Why did you choose sport as a means to help refugees?
Answer: It’s how I met the kids initially, through a pick up soccer game in a parking lot. Sport has the ability to transcend language, faith, culture and age. It’s a unifier and a very powerful motivator. And nothing has worked better in making our kids feel like they belong more than being part of a team.
Question: How do you evaluate the impact of your work in refugees’ lives? Do you integrate their feedback to better understand their needs?
Answer: We analyze our data regularly. Get feedback from parents and kids and continue to improve our model and method.
We have anecdotal evidence as well as data.
Question: In your opinion, what role can the private sector play to support initiatives such as yours?
Answer: The private sector can help in many ways.
- They can help with employment and education.
- They can help financially by sponsoring organizations that align with their mission and values.
- They can educate and expose their employees to what others in their communities are experiencing.
Question: What does the future of Fugees Academy look like?
Answer: The future for the Fugees is difficult to predict at this moment. Given the rise in anti-refugee sentiment not just in the U.S but across the globe, our work is needed now more than ever. But with that comes challenges. Challenges with funding, with combating perception of refugees etc. We are currently finalizing plans to replicate our school. To open ten schools in ten years. To become a model of refugee education and a voice advocating and educating. We will have to rely heavily on private funding for this to happen since partnerships with the next administration are highly unlikely.
Question: In your experience, what are the best strategies/methods/tools for an organization to increase their donations?
Answer: It’s having a blend of strategies. Everything from online, to social media, emails, direct mail and one on one meetings. I am an introvert so I prefer doing most of our fundraising behind a computer. However, some national media coverage helps. Our best one has been the CBS Sunday morning feature, which got us $250,000 in two days. But with that sometimes people make the assumption that you are okay, that you don’t need help because we’ve been on TV or received awards. It’s being consistent with our message, being positive and engaging our supporters to raise money and host parties etc.
Question: What can society do to accommodate marginalized groups better?
Answer: Society needs to be more compassionate, kinder. It’s quite simple to treat people the way you want to be treated. Walk in someone’s shoes for a day.
Question: What is the biggest lesson you have learned since starting Fugees? If you could start over, what would you do differently and why?
Answer: I’ve learned to be responsive to the community that I am serving, to listen and learn what the needs are, instead of assuming or imposing my values on them. I’ve learned that working with kids, is extremely challenging and rewarding and everyday is different. To have the standards that you would have for your own kids. That refugees are the kindest, generous, most resilient people I know. We have a lot to learn from them.
I wouldn’t do anything differently. I believe in learning from my mistakes and not repeating them. To stay focused and not get distracted, because the kids are the focus.
Question: How do you envision the future of philanthropy? What will philanthropy look like in the decades to come?
Answer: The future of philanthropy is going to shift. Maybe to more direct investments. I think the new generations want to have a great impact and want to be engaged. I am hopeful that philanthropy will be more innovative and risky. That there will be in an influx of venture philanthropy the way we have seen it go into start-ups etc.
Follow Luma Mufleh on Twitter.