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. 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 more responsibility than a typical 12 year old. On any typical day her warm smile greets you when she walks through the doors of the Refugee Education Center. 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!”

With the help of her volunteers, Arezo has been excelling at school. She is a straight “A” student, and making friends everyday.

With your help, more students like Arezo can 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. Yet, there are still a lot of students who need our support. That’s why we are launching our campaign…

Raise for Refugees Campaign starts now!

From now until June 20th, we have a goal of raising $10,000 to support next year’s programs. We are providing you an opportunity to get involved in sustaining our mission by starting your own fundraiser. All the tools you need to begin are on our website. So get together a group of friends, and be creative. Throw a party, car wash, or 10k run! Most of all, we hope you have fun.

Your passion for supporting the refugee community is contagious, so don’t loose momentum! Because our team is here to help, we’ve created a page for your personal fundraiser here.

Will you step up to the challenge with us?

World Refugee Day Celebration

This summer, Arezo and her family will celebrate their anniversary of 2 years here with us. To honor her journey and the other refugees here in West Michigan, we will celebrate World Refugee Day at the REC with an Open House! RSVP HERE

When?  June 17th, 12-4pm

Where? The Refugee Education Center!

Come Join us! We’d love to have you here to celebrate another great year at REC.

As always, Thank You for journeying with us.


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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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Be There for Refugee Children in 2016

When refugee children enter our community, they bring with them a distinct set of gifts. These talents and perspectives are often hidden behind layers of cultural misunderstandings and language differences. The Refugee Education Center seeks to peel back these layers and unleash the potential of refugee children in West Michigan. For the past 10 years, we have provided education and youth development services to newly arrived refugee children and their families. We focus on meeting the unique needs of refugee children in our community so that they can succeed in school and in life.

We have seen the power of education to transform lives. A young gentleman from Bhutan recently shared his experience with guests at our 10th birthday celebration. Tula began coming to our summer program several years ago. He had recently come with his family from a refugee camp in Nepal. His education had been interrupted and he had limited English but he was determined to learn. Our staff and volunteers worked with Tula that summer and throughout the coming year to learn English and adjust to life in the United States. The following year, Tula participated in our summer leadership program and this spring, Tula will graduate.

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You’re Invited!

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Welcoming Refugees Panel a Success!

Last night, the Kent District Library and World Affairs Council of West Michigan hosted a panel discussion on welcoming refugees in West Michigan. The panel is part of a three-part series on migration. If you missed the event you can check out the recorded live stream below. And join us for the next two events on Monday the 25th and Monday May 2nd from 6:30-7:30 PM at the Kent District Library in Kentwood.


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Save the Date: WMRECC is Turning 10!

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Join us as we celebrate 10 years of welcoming refugee children and families in West Michigan!

Where: Aquinas College

When: Thursday, September 22nd (time TBD)

For more information about this and other upcoming events call (616) 247-9611 or e-mail info@westmirefugee.org.

See you there!

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