Luma Mufleh is the inspirational CEO and Founding Director of Fugees Family, Inc., an organization that uses the power of soccer, education and community to empower refugee children to successfully integrate into the United States. Luma is a CNN Top 10 Hero 2016 and TED Talk 2017 Speaker whose story has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, ESPN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, Forbes and more. According to Tom Brokaw, the Fugees are “a perfect example of what this nation is supposed to be about, which is to provide a refuge for the refugees.” As the world faces a global refugee crisis, the Fugees are an inspiring example of what can happen when we welcome newcomers into our communities rather than shut them out. Luma — whose no-nonsense, authentic, real-talk approach earned one of the longest standing ovations at TED 2017 — challenges audiences’ perceptions about refugees and urges us all to elevate our standard of humanity.

Luma, a Jordanian and Muslim of Syrian descent, was granted political asylum in the United States based on the well-founded fear of persecution if she lived as an out lesbian in Jordan. She hopped from job to job and place to place as she struggled to acclimate to her new life far away from home. That all changed in 2004, when Luma took a wrong turn while driving through the town of Clarkston, Georgia and noticed a group of boys playing soccer in the street. She learned that these children were refugees from war-town countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Burma, Somalia and Sudan. That summer, Luma made flyers announcing tryouts for the Fugees soccer team. In the years that followed, the soccer team grew into something much larger — a school, a tutoring program, a summer camp, a college prep program, and, most importantly, a community and support network.

While only 20 percent of refugee students graduate from high school in Georgia’s DeKalb County, the Fugees Academy has a 90 percent graduation rate. These types of results helped earn Luma the 2016 Cournelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Manhattan Institute and the 2018 People’s Voice Award from Diane von Furstenberg. The Fugees opened a second location in Columbus, Ohio in 2018 and plans to expand to additional cities in the coming years.

A lifelong social entrepreneur, Luma has created several programs and initiatives that have gainfully employed, educated and empowered refugees and immigrants in her community and beyond, with the Fugees Academy serving as a national model for refugee education. Her story – and the story of the Fugees – illustrates the American dream, the very real challenges of integration and discrimination that so many face today, and the power of connection to break down barriers in polarized communities. Luma inspires audiences to think about how they can create positive change in their communities and how we can all do better when it comes to welcoming refugees into the United States. Luma received her B.A. in Anthropology from Smith College and recently completed the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

 

 

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