“Send these, your homeless, and tempest-tost to me.”
This verse written on the Statue of Liberty are words the Samaritas Refugee Foster Care lives by. As the largest refugee resettlement agency in Michigan and fourth largest in the nation, it has resettled thousands of people from dozens of countries, many of them children without parents.
The program serves youth who flee from war, violence or persecution in dozens of countries. They fled intense and often deadly realities for the U.S. and have no way to reunite with their families or know if members are still alive.
These young people, many not even 18 years old, have Samaritas to step in and help them deal with trauma and forge important life skills such as finding a job, paying rent, and even finishing their education.
That takes money. You can help and get a beautiful piece of art at the same time.
To help raise funds, and call attention to the talent these young people possess, Samaritas is hosting an online Youth Art Show called “Let The Love Shine.”
All the art is created by students in Samaritas’ Refugee Foster Care program. For a fee, the pieces can be printed on canvas tote bags, T-shirts, greeting cards, posters or magnets. Proceeds will benefit the program and help fund other programs including an annual soccer tournament. Soccer is the universal language among these kids from more than 20 countries.
“I think people are really taken aback when they see these kids can do,” says Michelle Haskell, the refugee foster care outreach team lead for Samaritas.
On one level this is a way to make sure their creativity and talent doesn’t go to waste, but it is also therapeutic. For many, art is a way to sort through the emotions that come with past trauma.
One example is Sulma. She comes from Honduras and was a victim of human trafficking, not uncommon among many young women in the program. Her artwork not only helps her move beyond her history. It shows off her love of nature and who she is as a person.
“Every year I am blown away by what she was able to come up with,” says Haskell.
Sulma has also been able to produce a shocking number of paintings, often able to create many of them in about an hour.
“I wouldn’t do half of what she did in that time,” says Haskell.
This is while she learns the skills to help give her son a better life.
One of her paintings (shown right), “Colors of my Soul,” is an example of how the art allows her to express herself, and grow. About it she says:
“I painted this beautiful tree with these beautiful colors, because the colors mean to me many things like happiness, love, peace, and abundance of life and I painted this picture representing my state of mind , which says that I am beautiful, with spirit to continue growing in abundance and to be happy. I sit like the gansos (geese), they are happy and free, they swim without concern.”
She also created the lead picture called “Full Moon” used for this story.
“I painted this painting with two people looking at the moon because they see a full moon and it is very nice,” she says. “I can remember things and think about my future. It is as if the moon helps me connect with the good things, and the moon is also something romantic, like spending the night under the moon with your partner.”
You can also see the art and read about the students and why they created specific pieces below.
For the past half a decade, this art show was held inside, but COVID-19 made that an irresponsible choice. Instead, you can go to their website here, and view all the art.
The show is open through 2020.
These young people came from many places across the globe, fleeing strife, and landing in Michigan looking for a better live. Now, we all have chance to see what is in their hearts.