Refugee Appreciation Day brings the Lansing community together

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Church members and other attendees as they view the art show presented the Niagara Foundation

On Nov. 5, people from the Greater Lansing community attended the Refugee Appreciation Day event hosted by the Refugee Development Center (RDC) at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing.

A reception was held to honor refugee stories from the Center and an art show was presented by the Niagara Foundation’s youth.

High school students from the area participated in the art show creating  displays based on the theme “Compassion in Action.”

These displays shared the many ways that people can cultivate compassion into their daily lives and the lives of others.

Mariah Shafer currently works as the senior school liaison with the Refugee Development Center and volunteers in  organization since 2007. She said that this event was extremely important for the community.

Painting by Mark VanOstran II on Nov. 5. “What I am trying to convey with this piece is that we are all a part of this one big family, and we should treat each other as such. Problems should be solved through conversation, not through ‘fist fights,’” described the painter.

“An exhibit like this helps people to understand that the story lines for people are really diverse, there experiences are very different,” Shafer said,  “And there is growth and development as long as there are opportunities and support.”

Shafer said that Lansing is successfully assimilating refugees into the community.

“I am really proud of Lansing and all of the effort and support that it is here,” Shafer said. “I think that this exhibit specifically tells a story of strong people making it through difficult situations and coming out on the other side as instrumental members of the community.”   

Joanne Cameron has been a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church for 13 years and said that  this church prides themselves on their diversity and supportive of refugees.

“We are dedicated to diversity as a church and we have truly embraced the RDC as part of that commitment,” Cameron said. “I have learned to admire the support they they have provided.”

Mariah Shafer, Senior School Liaison with the Refugee Development Center

Jeremy Herliczek worked as the co-producer of the project hosted by the Center. In 2002, Herliczek worked as a co-producer on a similar project involving refugees as a master’s student in the School of Journalism at MSU.

Herliczek said his goal for this new project was to inform people on the positive impacts created by refugees in the Lansing community.

“This project was aimed at educating people about what refugees and immigrants bring to our communities,” Herliczek said. “What we are trying to do is move the conversation from an ‘us vs. them’ conversation to a ‘we are them’ conversation and what I mean by that is that the United States was built on immigrants and immigration.”