Every year, refugees are welcomed to the United States, carrying dreams of a better life and the desire to escape political, religious and ethnic persecution, or the violence of war within their home country. Clarkston, a small town in the Metro Atlanta area, is a vibrant and diverse community with people from many different paths living and sharing life with each other. Around 60,000 New Americans have started their journey in what New York Times Magazine calls “the most diverse square mile in America”.
Pat Maddox, a resident of Clarkston, saw how the community was changing. Together with her church, she began a journey of walking together with refugee families and providing support in tangible ways as they transitioned to life in America. In 1995, Friends of Refugees was established as people were drawn to the vision of abundant life in flourishing communities alongside our refugee neighbors. They used their areas of personal passion and compassion to create programs that serve as platforms for New Americans to seize opportunities while bringing them into relationships that will help them flourish.
In 2005, Friends of Refugees registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Since then, it has grown to six programs including Refugee Career Hub, Embrace Birth Support, Refugee Family Literacy, Jolly Ave Garden, and Start:ME Business Accelerator.
Youth Programs has grown from Ms. Pat leading summer activities in local apartment complexes to out-of-school time (OST) programming for around 300 k-12th grade youth each year focused on building academic, social, and work-readiness skills.
Biblical Justice & Compassion
Our work is propelled by God's priority for the poor and marginalized as expressed in the Old and New Testament. Though the directors of Youth Programs are followers of Jesus, we serve refugee youth and welcome volunteers of all faith backgrounds.
Director of youth programs
Brendon “B. L. A.” Barclay
The Director of Youth Programs leads the team responsible for growing successful engagement with youth in Clarkston, GA. Providing vision and strategy, hiring and developing a qualified team, and contributing to the development and deployment of initiatives for the Friends of Refugees. BLA served as the founding director of Sustaining Urban Villages Inc. (SUV) providing Team Building/facilitation, Environmental Education, and Service Learning. SUV's projects included many client partnerships: The Dekalb County School System, The National Wildlife Federation, AmeriCorps Alums, Hands On Atlanta/Network and Disney Parks', “Give A Day Get a Disney Day” and more. SUV developed support for urban forestry, via grants, programming, and volunteers/staff/interns for the City of Atlanta's OAC. The SUV/OAC project implemented a student technology transfer to conduct a sample census of the urban forest. AmeriCorps Alumni BLA was featured in a national TV commercial campaign promoting civic engagement titled "Be The Change." The Oprah Winfrey Network, commercial series, spotlighted BLA on Future Friendly Initiatives sponsored by P&G on OWN. BLA has served directly in Clarkston in the area schools as a supply teacher of every grade from K-12. Most recently he’s served with Positive Growth Inc. as Education Director working directly with refugee families of school aged children and those seeking to earn a GED, and Education Liaison working with Positive Growth’s Residential program for boys.
Fun Fact: “My wife and I have a middle schooler who makes us look young until you find out we have a C/O 2018 U of Iowa college grad and college junior at KSU. Our 3 boys insure there’s never a dull moment & plenty of fun.”
Middle School Site Coordinator
Aziz grew up in Clarkston/Tucker, Georgia, his family is originally from Liberia, but he was born in Ghana. Aziz recently graduated from the College of Coastal Georgia with his bachelor’s degree in business administration and concentration in Healthcare Administration.
Fun fact about Aziz: Aziz was chosen to present the convocational prayer during his graduation ceremony.
Kristopher Woods Site Coordinator
Lemuel Anderson is a native of the Atlanta area and enjoys working in Clarkston. He is a graduate of Iowa State University where he majored in Political Science. Lemuel is passionate about helping students succeed in school and is loving getting to know the students and volunteers at Kristopher Woods.
Fun fact about Lemuel: Lemuel likes playing basketball now and as a child he enjoyed chess.
Emily grew up in Lawrenceville, Georgia and graduated from UGA with her degree in human development and family sciences. She started volunteering with Friends of Refugees eight years ago, and has been on full-time staff since 2015. Emily is excited to share her love for Clarkston youth with staff and volunteers as the program grows and loves inspiring young people to make beautiful things through art.
Fun facts about Emily: She is an avid knitter and makes killer biscuits and gravy. We promise, ask her to make you some.
Thank you to the following donors and program partners that make what we do possible:
Francis Hollis Brain Foundation
Larson Family Foundation