Missoulian: Missoula students get first-hand view of world refugee crisis

Haley Smith has seen Turkey from the coast of Lesbos, a Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea.

And she’s seen the rubber rafts, overcrowded with refugees in useless life vests, trying to make the 4.1-mile journey without capsizing.

Some do, some don’t. It’s all the same to the smugglers who collect their 1,500 Euros ($1,580) to put them on the boat, Smith said Wednesday.

As she spoke, eight sophomores, juniors and seniors in a classroom at Sentinel High School leaned forward in their desks, concentrating on Smith’s increasingly animated descriptions.

That the stories were delivered in Arabic, the language they themselves speak in Brendan Work’s intermediate and advanced level class, only made them listen harder.

Smith heads the international arm of the nonprofit organization she founded a year ago in Phoenix called Lifting Hands International.

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