Refugee kids enjoy a piece of American childhood at a summer camp just for them

KENT, Wash. -- A grassy field on a hot summer day, playing red light green light without a care in the world is classic American childhood. But for these refugee children, their path to this play court is anything but a classic childhood journey.

"India, then come Hong Kong, then come America, Seattle,” said Elham, a refugee child from Afghanistan.

He and his siblings from Afghanistan are among the more than 30 children at this summer camp from places like the Middle East and East Africa.

These families have all been resettled by the International Rescue Committee of Seattle, a global non-profit responding to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The IRC partnered with Mitzvah Corps, another non-profit providing social justice travel programs for teens, like Blake Mandell, who says he was tired of hearing negative talk about refugees and decided to take action volunteering as a camp counselor here.

"A lot of times we dehumanize refugees and try to make them feel like they’re lesser and that’s really not the case, and this really made me realize that,” said Mandell.

Playing with kids at this summer camp is a way to pay it forward for Mira Zelle whose family came to the United States from Greece. Zelle says being here is a way she can pay it forward and give back to her community.

"My grandma was a refugee, she came over after World War II,” said Zelle.

A personal reason for Zelle to spend time here, a perspective lesson for others like Mandell who says he got more perspective on misconceptions about refugees.

"It’s definitely frustrating, and it’s even more frustrating now after I’ve worked with the kids that they’re just kids who wanna have fun and they’re normal human people,” said Mandell.

"I just hope they can look back 5 years down the road just remember that they had a really good week and that something good happened to them,” said Zelle.