Farmington Hills church hosts refugee youth art gallery

A Farmington Hills church will host an October 24 art gallery and open house that showcases works by young refugees in foster care.

“Written Dreams in Paper”, open 3-5 p.m. at Hope Lutheran Church, 39200 W. 12 Mile Rd., also offers a chance to learn more about Samaritas. The agency operates a foster care program for young people fleeing their homelands.

“Only about 30 programs in the United States specialize in serving unaccompanied refugee minors,” said Kayla Park, Community Outreach Team Leader for Samaritas. “The U.S. is the only country with a program designed to serve these unaccompanied refugees, so we are working with youth from all around the world.”

Lost Boys of Sudan

Park said an example people may remember is the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” many of whom were placed in American foster homes. The Samaritas program began in the 1970s, serving children from Vietnam.

Foster children often come out of traumatic situations, but refugee youth “have experienced a very different kind of trauma,” Park said. Because it’s often difficult to find their families, their American foster placement many times becomes permanent.

In 2015, Park said, a group of agencies providing services to refugees started celebrating “Refugee Sunday” to raise awareness. The art project emerged from that effort.

Building portfolios

Youth worked with a local artist to create a mural depicting their journey, and “it ended up being a big success,” Park said. Now each child creates their own artwork in a variety of media. “We’ve had sculptures, we’ve had photos, we’ve had stories, but the vast majority of the youth prefer to paint.”

Through the gallery events, young people share stories and a more clear picture of the refugee experience. Some paint border crossings or their life in a refugee camp. Art provides an emotional outlet, and the young artists build their portfolios, Park said.

Moving the gallery experience online during COVID-19 “turned out to have been a big blessing,” she added. “We realized we had an avenue that we could connect this art with people from around the country and around the world.”

Web visitors can also purchase gift items made with the art; proceeds help fund foster program services.

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