Unexpected donation will fund summer camp for refugees


Unexpected donation will fund summer camp for refugees

From the Lansing State Journal, February 10, 2017

By Beth LeBlanc

eleblanc@lsj.com

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

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.

According to a tweet from Green, a total of $71,750 was raised through the fundraising effort.

It was not immediately clear how the Refugee Development Center was chosen for the donation.

Green was not immediately available for comment.

View image on Twitter

The refugee poster sale total is in! $71,750 raised to help welcome refugees to the US through resettlement organizations. Amazing. 😊 @hankgreen

Brown-Binion said the money will help to fund a summer camp called GLOBE, which stands for Gaining Learning Opportunities through Better English.

“I’ve been trying to piece together funding for that program, which is our most popular and serves about 100 kids over the course of five weeks,” Brown-Binion said.

“That really helps us out. There’s still more to do but, gosh, I’m farther ahead now than I was a week ago.”

The camp offers refugee children English lessons as well as cultural trips to the capital, parks and museums. Last year, 91 refugee children from more than a dozen countries participated in the camp, Brown-Binion said.

The number of people served through the Refugee Development Center — which offers English classes, after-school activities, home visits and summer camps — has increased over the years, from about 400 people in 2008 to 2,488 people in 2016, Brown-Binion said.

The nonprofit group is funded by individual donations and grants from entities like the city of Lansing, Ingham County, United Way, and Jackson National Life.

“We piece it together every year,” Brown-Binion said.

She said the donation put a smile on her face, knowing there are “people in our corner.”

Brown-Binion said the group still is about $10,000 short of the funds it needs to run the summer camp. People interested in donating can visit www.refugeedevelopmentcenter.org.

Contact Reporter Beth LeBlanc at 517-377-1167 or eleblanc@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @LSJBethLeBlanc.