Wednesday, 02 December 2015

The Refuge Mural: My Safe Place

Written by Nancy Dang
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The Refuge Mural The Refuge Mural

The Refuge mural, created by refugee and immigrant youth from Catholic Charities Unaccompanied Minor Program (UMP) is the perfect embodiment of what the program does. Every young person desires to be surrounded by adults that will love and protect them, to help them feel safe and to instill hope for a future. For whatever reason, these children were not able to find this in their homelands and they were forced to seek refuge elsewhere.

Unaccompanied Minor Foster Care

Unaccompanied Minor Program Refugee muralCatholic Charities’ Unaccompanied Minor Program is a foster care program for children who entered the United States from a variety of different countries, without a parent or guardian to care for them. The UMP has had the privilege of providing safe and loving homes for children for the past 30 years, coming alongside each youth and supporting them while they establish their lives in their new country. The mural represents the work of 77 participants from 16 different countries.

the Refuge Mural

Healing through Art

Free Arts of Arizona, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the healing powers of artistic expression into the lives of abused, neglected, and at risk children for a number of years suggested that we work together to produce a piece of art that could accent the front wall of The Refuge Café in a way that was reflective of the type of work that we both do.

Unaccompanied Minor Program Refugee MuralProfessional artist and volunteer mentor, Elizabeth Noble, is very adept at creating a safe and welcoming environment. As a result, the youth felt free to explore their thoughts and emotions, the creativity just began to flow. The tiles are very individualized and represent what each youth feels is their refuge or safe place to go. Common themes were the safety and security of home and family (their own or a foster family), a quiet place to retreat to when needed, as well as their faith in God. The explanations of each tile gave us insight as to how deeply they feel about the security and services that we provide.mural 4

The ceramic leaves in the canopy of the tree represent shelter and protection and made by foster families, agency staff and community members who have been committed to helping our youth. The names of individuals who have invested in the lives of our youth over the past 30 years are carved on the back of the leaves.

The mural project was a tremendous gift and we are so grateful for the courage and confidence it took for the participants to openly share their stories.

The mural can be viewed at The Refuge Cafe located at 4727 N 7th Ave. in Phoenix. The Refuge Cafe is a coffee and wine bar next to Catholic Charities Community Services.

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