Standing In Hope

Over the last few weeks, two students have become fast friends. This past year, Zubeda, a second grader, and her brothers started to attend our after school program for homework help. What Zubeda found was friendship.  Fatima, a Kindergartener, also started to attend the after-school tutoring program this year. Although they come from different countries, their parents share a similar story. Both families settled in Grand Rapids after seeking refuge from war in their home countries. The two girls found a common bond when they started coming to the Refugee Education Center.  

The other day, as they put their arms around each other, their expression became an example of what we see daily at the Refugee Education Center: students finding a safe place to learn and belong, and parents finding a hope for their children’s future.  

So what does it look like to stand in hope for refugees in 2018?  

Although numbers for resettlement to the US have dwindled in the past year, Grand Rapids has a strong presence of refugees creating a new life here. It currently is home to more than 25,000 refugees. As the news headlines transition away from the crisis abroad, the need still remains to support refugees here at home. So as we work together to stand in hope for refugees in our community, let us not stand by on the sidelines but stand in the gap.   

At the Refugee Education Center, we were able to provide educational support to over 300 students in 2017. We have witnessed children excelling in their grades at school, overcoming language barriers, and  going on to graduate. Yet, we also understand that without an environment of safety, a child cannot learn. So while providing educational support through course catch-up and English Language support, the Center also creates a space of hope, peace, and solidarity.

Standing in hope for refugees in Grand Rapids looks like creating support systems that work for our newest neighbors. It looks like hiring refugees in your business or visiting a refugee-owned business. It looks like creating a seat at the decision-making table. At The Refugee Education Center, it looks like tutoring a child or supporting our work financially.  

 So, let us choose to enter into new stories of hope right here in West Michigan. Let us choose to invest in the life of a child so he or she can reach their dreams to become our future doctors, lawyers, and educators.  

 The image of Zubeda and Fatima standing together reminds us of the hope refugee families seek when they come here. So while countries continue to be at war with each other, let us continue to stand in hope in our own community, in every way we can.  

Stand with us… in hope.  

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We’re Hiring!

We are launching an early childhood project focused on the development of our community’s youngest refugees and are in need of a qualified individual to lead the start-up of our early childhood center. Along with running the center, this position will be heavily involved in mentoring a diverse group of early childhood professionals, including an associate director. For the full position description click here.

Please e-mail your resume and cover letter to info@refugeeeducationcenter.org.

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Planting Deeper Roots Benefit Dinner – You’re Invited!

You are cordially invited to the Refugee Education Center’s “Planting Deeper Roots” Annual Benefit Dinner. We consider it a privilege to work with such amazing families, who have shown such resilience as they create a new place to call home. In order for families become full participants of West Michigan, we believe that we need to provide the right resources for families to plant deeper roots here.

We would love to share more with you about who we are, what we’ve been up to, and where we are going. Help us welcome refugees in our community and support their desire to flourish in their new homes.

The Goei Center
Tickets are $25 per person

OCTOBER 5, 2017
5:30 – 6:30pm  Reception
6:30- 8pm  Dinner & Performance

All contributions will go directly towards advancing programs and impact of the Refugee Education Center in the refugee community. All funds raised will go directly to our Education and Youth Development programs.

Tickets will be available until the week of the event, and will not be available for purchase at the event. Limited quantity available.

Purchase TICKETS here!

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A few months ago, we wrote about one student of ours named Tula. Well this year is his big year to graduate from high school and head out into the world. Last night he did just that. With a glimmer of excitement and pride in his eyes, he walked across the stage to get his diploma. 

For the refugee students and families who have worked so hard to start a new life here in the US — having overcome difficulties with language and gaps in education, transitions in culture and new friendships – it is a milestone accomplishment to graduate from school. 
And here is where Tula’s story comes full circle. Originally from Bhutan, Tula and his family moved to United States 4 years ago from a refugee camp in Nepal.  That year, he started coming to The Refugee Education Center with his brother.  With a determination to work hard and succeed and the support of volunteer tutors, he hit the ground running. The following summer, Tula entered into our Leadership Program, which stretched him to see a larger picture for how he could be influential in helping others.
“He was funny and sarcastic, but always willing to learn,” recalls Susan, our Executive Director. Since that time, Tula has volunteered during the summer to teach other newly arrived refugee students. Last September, he spoke at our 10 year Celebration and organized a dance for the performance.  
Tula graduated alongside two other REC volunteers, Cat and Rachel. Together they represent the future leadership of our community. They understand the value of education lies not in acquiring personal knowledge, but in how information can empower each of us to make our community a better place for all. 
To all the students graduating this year, we congratulate you and wish you all the best in the years to come!
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Embracing the Journey

For Arezo, English was her 5th language to learn when she arrived in the US. As a young girl of 12 years, Arezo had a lot to learn in a new country, not just English. Adjusting to a new culture, navigating the school system, and having to translate for her mother, Arezo had to take on more responsibility than most 12-year-olds. She has big dreams for her future — she wants to be a Doctor. When we asked her where she gets her big dreams from, she said:

“From my mom! When we were going to come here, my mom did it all by herself. She went to Istanbul and she talked for us so we could come here.  She is a strong woman, but now she is sick. If I were a doctor I could help my mom get better. She is the best ever!”

On any typical day her warm smile greets you when she walks through the doors of the Refugee Education Center. With the help of her volunteers, Arezo has been excelling at school. She is a straight “A” student, and making friends everyday.

This summer, Arezo and her family will celebrate their 2nd anniversary at the Refugee Education Center. With your help we can honor her journey and help more students like Arezo to reach their dreams, but it will take hard work. This year alone, you have helped us reach more refugee families than ever before. We are tutoring 68 students on a weekly basis, our highest number to date. The Refugee Education Center has also served over 700 refugee parents and students though our services. Yet, there are still a lot of students who need our support.

Support of refugees in the community happens when we all come together and unify around the cause. For all refugee families in West Michigan to feel welcomed and to thrive, we have to be intentional. Thankfully, our community has been a welcoming community for refugee families for over 35 years. Yet we know that Planting roots in a new place is just not the end of a journey but a new beginning. We believe that now is more important than ever to show up in the life of another and to walk along side their journey. Will you come journey with us?

As always, Thank You.

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Will You Take The Next Step With Us?

Last month, we hosted “Do Good Well,” an event where we addressed the global and national issues that impact refugees here in West Michigan. Over 130 of you came together to learn and discuss how we can better support our refugee neighbors.

Now more than ever, it is important that we show up for refugees living in our community. We have been taking the time to listen to all of you and see how we can best support each other as we work to make West Michigan a welcoming place.

At a recent Refugee Education Center parent meeting, one parent expressed:

Our children need to know that they are safe here. We are no longer living in a war torn country, but our children still struggle to feel safe here. So we need teachers, parents, and other children to make an intentional effort to help us feel safe.”

We are so thankful that refugees live in our community, but we still have a lot of work to do. And we need your help. We want to invite all of you to continue to support refugees in our community by taking action today. 

Here are a few ways you can be a part of the work at the Refugee Education Center:

  • Give monthly: Your commitment of $25 per month provides for one child to attend our summer program. Here they gain valuable socio-emotional support, English Language skills, and so much more. Can you give up one coffee per week to invest in the life of a child? 
  • Create a social fundraiser: Get some friends together and have a car wash, bake sale, or participate in the 5th/3rd River Bank Run! Use your passion for action. Together, you can make a difference.
  • Invite a small group over to your home and we will come be a part of the discussion with you. We would be happy to help you spread the word to your friends and family.

Your financial contributions have already helped tutor 58 students this school year! Thank you for your commitment.

For each and every thing you do, Thank You!


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The Refugee Resettlement Process

Based on some feedback we received from our last event, we wanted to share with you an informative and concise infographic from the UNHCR on refugee resettlement. Here at the Refugee Education Center, we continue to work towards creating a welcoming and supportive community for all who call West Michigan their home. We encourage you to take a moment to brainstorm about how you can support the 25,000 refugees already living in West Michigan.

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Do Good Well: How advocates can support the local refugee community

Get Informed. Focus Efforts. Increase Impact.

West Michigan has a strong history of welcoming refugees. There are around 25,000 refugees in our area who deserve our support. Come learn about how global and national refugee policy impacts your neighbors, and what you can do locally to make West Michigan a welcoming environment for all.

Together we will learn about the global refugee crisis, address questions about the U.S. refugee resettlement program including the selection and vetting process, and explore strategies for how to support our refugee friends and neighbors.

The event is free but there is a suggested donation of $10 which will be used to help support refugee children and families in our community.

The event will be held on Monday, February 20th from 6-8 PM at the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids Cathedral Square (Map).

Register here.

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Welcoming Refugees in 2017

Over the past couple of months, we have received numerous calls and emails from individuals in our community interested in supporting refugees in our community. Many ask how we can make our community a welcoming place for newcomers. As we kick off the New Year we asked several of our refugee friends and colleagues to share their thoughts on what we can do to welcome refugees in 2017.

Abdi Osman:

“First, they need help and guidance. Refugees go through a lot that most people can’t imagine. Those fortunate enough to come to the United States come seeking peace, equality, freedom, and justice. It’s not their choice to come here. They have been forced. I mean, no one really wants to leave their native country. So when we see a refugee family we should treat them with respect and give them a warm welcome and support them with what we have. We need to put our differences aside to help them so they can also help us—learn their ways and help teach your ways.”

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