Communities across Michigan will have the chance to see and read the stories of refugees who have made Mid-Michigan home when a traveling exhibit winds its way from the capital through the state beginning this June.
Refuge Lansing: Stories of Resettlement in Mid-Michigan will debut at the Capitol on June 13th from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. as part of Refugee Awareness Week. The public is invited to view the stories of 12 refugee families who have lived, worked and called Greater Lansing home within the last 40-plus years.
The storytelling exhibit, book and website were created by professional writers, photographers and designers who donated their time and talent. Jeremy Herliczek is the originator and among several project producers. The idea, he says, came from a holiday gathering in which conversation veered to current events and the climate of fear and misinformation directed at refugees nationwide.
"We all had a sense of impotency of what we could do," says Herliczek, a local photographer. "Some people write letters. Some go to protests. As creatives, we decided to start a grassroots effort to tell the story of refugees here."
Word spread throughout the creative community, and within weeks, Herliczek assembled 12 teams of one photographer and one writer each. In total, 27 creative professionals volunteered with the Refugee Development Center, Samaritas, the Global Institute of Lansing, and St. Vincent Catholic Charities to help refugees share their stories.
The resulting traveling exhibit will showcase stories and photographs on easy-to-assemble displays—all of which can be transported in the back of a van. After the opening at the Capitol, the exhibit will go on the road to schools, businesses, faith-based groups, and community centers in the works.
"Our idea is not necessarily to tell the stories of how refugees got here, it's to tell the stories of how they are adding to our community by buying homes, starting businesses, and sending their kids to local schools," says Herliczek. "Hopefully, the project will create a sense of empathy and encourage residents to engage with refugees and connect with the agencies that support them."
A crowdfunding campaign through gofundme is underway to support printing costs, including a book with all stories and pictures. All proceeds from book sales will be donated to local agencies that support refugees. To learn more about the project or to donate, visit the Refuge Lansing gofundme page here. You can also visit the website at refugelansing.us
Capital Gains will also run a larger feature on Refuge Lansing: Stories of Resettlement in Mid-Michigan in an upcoming issue.
Source: Jeremy Herliczek, Producer/Photographer, Refuge Lansing: Stories of Resettlement in Mid-Michigan
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Capital Gains? Email Ann Kammerer here.