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The Refugee Development Center has been featured in a number of news articles, among them:

Click on the titles of the articles or on “…read more here” to read any of the articles below in their entirety

Unexpected donation will fund summer camp for refugees

From the Lansing State Journal, February 10, 2017

By Beth LeBlanc


LANSING – Erika Brown-Binion calls it a small miracle — one that will help more than 100 kids learn English this 636223350298308743-16487286-10154734421755622-7573958196279431805-o.jpgsummer.

The director of the Refugee Development Center in Lansing was sitting at her desk Wednesday evening when the group’s fundraising pot suddenly grew.

A donation of $7,100 was dropped into the group’s account, one of the largest unsolicited donations the group has received in its nearly 15 years.

“I am still a little unsure of how they found us,” Brown-Binion said. “Maybe it was word of mouth.”

The Refugee Development Center was one of 10 groups throughout the U.S. that received a donation from Don’t Forget to Be Awesome Records, a group started by YouTube star Hank Green. According to its website, the group helps YouTube creators to fund their productions through merchandise sales.

Green, who is best known for his YouTube channel Vlogbrothers, launched the fundraising effort in a YouTube video published Feb. 3.

In the video, Green said he received more than 2,000 submissions after he said he would donate $5 to the American Civil Liberties Union for each hand-drawn message of support for immigrants and refugees he received.

Some of those drawings were sold as posters on DFTBA.com during a flash sale over the weekend.

The proceeds, Green said in the video, would go to groups that provided training and resettlement services to refugees — groups whose federal funding may be impacted by President Donald Trump’s recent executive order regarding refugees.

…read more here

Part of the solution’

From the City Pulse, February 3, 2016

By Lawrence Cosentino


Andrew Ford, a pastor at Grand Ledge Baptist Church, resolved to venture “outside his comfort zone” in 2016. He wasn’t alone. Thursday, Ford joined a mob of volunteers who reported for duty with Lansing’s Refugee Development Center and signed up to teach English to area refugees.

The response was the biggest in the RDC’s 14-year history, according to RDC director Erika Brown Binion. As the arrivals packed into a stuffy auditorium at MSU’s Snyder-Phillips Hall, a hippo-sized heap of coats mounted near the door.

“We have almost filled all of our spots for volunteering, and that is unprecedented, Brown-Binion said. “We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of support, very different from the national media and the anti-refugee rhetoric you hear.”

…read more here

Lansing keeps doors open for refugees, immigrants 

From the Lansing State Journal, December 14, 2015

By Eric Lacy


 LANSING – Mayor Virg Bernero and several City Council members reinforced Monday their belief that the Capital City should welcome refugees and immigrants of all faiths, and they put it in writing. Bernero and council members Vincent Delgado, Carol Wood, Jody Washington and Tina Houghton signed a pledge to declare Lansing a “Welcoming City” for anyone eager to live here. All other council members signed the pledge Monday evening at the City Council meeting. The City Council late Monday evening voted 7-0 to formalize the action. Councilwoman A’Lynne Boles was not at the meeting when the vote took place. Officials acknowledged the pledge and resolution are symbolic gestures, but said they could lead to more resettlement opportunities for immigrants and refugees in the area.

“It sounds like The Golden Rule,” Bernero said of the city’s pledge. “It sounds like treating people the way they should be treated.”

…read more here

Lansing ready for Syrian refugees, outreach leaders say

From the Lansing State Journal, October 1, 2015

By RJ Wolcott



Lansing’s history as a hub for refugees fleeing war-torn nations is expected to continue if local organizers have any say in the matter.

Despite record-high refugee arrivals in September, none of the close to 130 people included Syrians fleeing the ongoing conflict there. As state and federal officials grapple with refugee target numbers, local officials say the resources are in place and they are eager for Syrians to arrive. Lengthy background checks, which can take upwards of a year, may be the biggest hurdle for that happening anytime soon, officials said.

…read more here

 Vote: Help pick our Make a Difference Day project

From the Lansing State Journal, June 25, 2015

By Stephanie Angel



One way to make a difference is to listen to your community.

That’s why the Lansing State Journal asked you for your nominations for our annual Make a Difference Day project. We’ve committed to providing the labor and a $5,000 grant to do something special on Oct. 24.

After reviewing the submitted nominations, we’ve narrowed the field to five finalists.

…read more here

Refugee Development Center has new executive director

From the Lansing State Journal, August 27, 2014

By Vickki Dozier



Brown-Binion to lead Refugee Development Center

Erika Brown-Binion has been named executive director of the Refugee Development Center in Lansing. She will lead the organization in its efforts to provide the education and social support refugees need to become self-sufficient.

Brown-Binion has been on staff at the Refugee Development Center for the past six years and served as assistant director prior to this appointment. She has worked in the field of education for the past 15 years as a literacy specialist, elementary school teacher, and faculty at Lansing Community College. She holds a master’s degree in educational administration.

…read more here

Making a new life in Lansing as a refugee

From Capital Gains, February 15, 2014

By Sarah Hillman

Christina Kaufmann with a ESL Class - Photo ©Dave Trumpie


They come from all over — Bosnia, Liberia, Somalia and Vietnam, to name but a few. They speak a myriad of different languages, hold to many differing beliefs. But one thing they all have in common — they came here because they weren’t safe in their homelands, and they were hoping for a place to start anew.

But for all the tragedy that often precipitates their arrival, this is an opportunity to make a new life. To have the chance at simple pleasures that we so often take for granted. To pursue dreams and ambitions. To thrive.

…read more here

Sewing circles provide opportunities for women refugees

 Full interview available on Michigan Radio, May 28, 2013


Twelve years ago, St. Vincent’s Catholic Charities in Lansing started a job training program for women refugees, but organizers soon realized these women needed something other than job training.

“If you don’t speak English, if you don’t have a destination to go to, you can end up being incredibly isolated,” said Jillian Olsen.

Jillian shows up once a week to help lead a sewing circle, teaching refugee women how to sew.

Sewing is important for a couple of reasons. It’s a skill the women learn as part of the job training program, but it’s also a way for the women to socialize and share common experiences.

…listen to more here 

Lansing Newcomers: Bridging cultures through soccer

Children from Iraq, Burma and Bhutan find ways to fit in, flourish while becoming a team on the field

From Lansing State Journal, October 7, 2012

By Kathleen Lavey

“Newcomers!” shouts the Refugee Development Center and Lansing Soccer Club-sponsored U-13 soccer team and coach Maria Kossick as they get set to take on a team from Haslett Friday 9/28/2012. The 16 member team includes youngsters from three different countries that speak five different languages.

(Photo by ROD SANFORD/Lansing State Journal)

“Newcomers!” shouts the Refugee Development Center and Lansing Soccer Club-sponsored U-13 soccer team and coach Maria Kossick as they get set to take on a team from Haslett Friday 9/28/2012. The 16 member team includes youngsters from three different countries that speak five different languages.

The sun already hangs low over the soccer fields at North Meridian Park, but in its long, slanting rays, the Lansing Newcomers are just warming up. Backs to the sun, the boys in light-blue jerseys run backward, then forward. They stretch, then cluster in small groups, passing balls back and forth, their toes making small thudding sounds against the rubber. On the other end of the field, the white-clad boys of the Haslett Vikings under-13 soccer team do the same.

A few minutes before the game’s 6 p.m. start, coach Maria Kossick deems the boys sufficiently warmed up. “Hustle in, hustle in,” she calls as the boys gather around her. “This is a really good team today, we need to get focused,” she said, glancing toward the Vikings’ end of the field.

“What is our goal today?” she asks. “To win!” shouts one boy. Kossick acknowledges that would be nice, but it’s not the immediate answer she’s looking for. “To score a goal!” she replies.

…read more here


Refugee Development Center Provides Bridge of Hope for Refugee Children

From Capital Gains, April 18, 2012

By Dawn Gorman

Refugee Development Center - Photos © Dave Trumpie



A little more than 10 years ago, the Christ Lutheran Church started the Refugee Development Center (RDC) to provide support and skills to Lansing’s diverse refugee population.

Since that time, the center has grown considerably, separated into its own organization staffing two full-time and three part-time employees who work alongside 350 community volunteers and 13 interns. Last year, they provided services for more than 900 refugees, including 300 children, which is why children’s programming is such an essential part of the RDC’s work.

…read more here


Shooting for Success: Doctoral student shares power of sports with refugees,

studies barriers in South Africa

From the MSU College of Education News, November 1, 2010

By Nicole Geary


“Moja, mbili, tatu… Team!” the boy from Tanzania shouts, throwing his arms up in unison with friends from Burma, Kenya, Ethiopia and … Michigan State University.

Then the huddle breaks and, despite differences in language, history and hardships, they throw themselves into an experience they can all appreciate: soccer.

There are no score-keepers, or even goal posts. The tiny gym, in the basement of Lansing’s Refugee Development Center, is simply a place where they can play sports, laugh and pick up lessons about respect and responsibility from their leaders.

A former college basketball captain, the program director towers over most of the teenage refugees in height. But Meredith Whitley, who often squats to speak with students eye to eye, gets down to their level in more ways than one.

…read more here


Lansing Lists: Five local charities to give to this holiday season

From Lansing Online News, December 14, 2009

By Chris Singer

Lansing has many local charities, non-profits and community organizations doing vital work in the area. I have picked five who I think are worthy of your holiday donation.

How did I pick these 5? All of these organizations are ones I have either: volunteered with (past or presently) or accessed a service of the organization.

Give us your feedback – did we get it right? Do you have others for the list?

These are not in any particular order but here are the five:

#1 Charity – Refugee Development Center – Lansing is home to a large number of refugees from all around the world. Most of these men, women and children have suffered terrible injustices and have lost their family and homes to forces beyond their control. When refugees come to America, they usually have little money, few contacts, and a limited understanding of America’s vast and complex culture. I volunteered at the RDC several years ago and met some amazing people with even more amazing stories.

…read more here

Lansing Refugee Center Lands $97,000 Grant; Looks To Hire New Staffer

From Capital Gains, September 9, 2009

By Gretchen Cochran


Lansing-based Refugee Development Center has just received a $97,000 grant from the state to help refugee parents acclimate to the American school system and to other cultural resources.

…read more here

Art from the heart: Refugee kids’ ideas shape mural

From the Lansing State Journal, December 4, 2008

By Matthew Miller



The cluster of children in the basement of Christ Lutheran Church weren’t shy about what they’d accomplished.

“I painted some bicycles,” said Isaac Fayia, an 11-year-old who had come to Lansing as a refugee from Liberia. “I painted a house. I painted the sun and the moon.”

They were waiting Wednesday night for the unveiling of a mural in a hallway on the upper floor of the church, near the offices of the Refugee Development Center, a bright rendering of the state Capitol with a river winding around it, of bicycles and birds, fish and people, houses and neighborhoods.

It was painted by children from the center with the help of four students from Michigan State University’s Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and a Chicago artist named Guillermo Delgado. It was meant to symbolize community, to symbolize home.

Many of the children from the Refugee Development Center didn’t speak English very well, he said, “and everybody had their own vision for what the mural should look like and different background experiences.”

…read more here

$25,000 Investment Improves Refugee Center Infrastructure, Capacity

From Capital Gains, October 15, 2008

By Ivy Hughes



A $25,000 grant that was awarded to Lansing’s Refugee Development Center (RDC) allowed the center to improve its infrastructure and increase its capacity to help area residents.

“What happened with the Refugee Development Center is that all of the programs and volunteer and clients we have been seeing have outpaced our ability to keep up with them,” says Shirin Kambin with the RDC.

…read more here

Refugee kids have fun learning about Lansing in summer camp

From the Lansing State Journal, July 21, 2007

By Lindsay Machak

New Picture

(Photo by BECKY SHINK/Lansing State Journal)

A visit to City Hall: Jeneba Swaray, 10, (left), from Liberia, and Hermance Akono, 12, from Togo, laugh after answering a question from Jessica Sohn, staff assistant to the mayor, while visiting Lansing City Hall as part of their Summer Adventure Camp.

Eight-year-old Rocil Almarales listened intently as Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero spoke Friday.

She had never met somebody like him.

“I can tell Lansing is really important to him,” she said. “And that’s important to me because the mayor is supposed to care about the city.”

Rocil, from Cuba, was one of 14 students to visit City Hall and meet the mayor with the Refugee Development Center’s Summer Adventure Camp.

“Welcome to Lansing,” Bernero said. “This is part of your home.”

…read more here


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