US Together Toledo has partnered with Trinity Episcopal Church to organize a week-long camp for refugee children and youth, culminating with a program featuring their artwork, song and dance performances, and recitations from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Thirty six young people signed up for the camp will be directed by Sarah Jobin, the soon departing Resident Conductor of the Toledo Symphony, and Helle Wahhaba Larson, an actress traveling from Denmark to teach the children tap dancing.
Toledo’s melting pot
Jobin has worked with US Together Toledo, an official U.S. government refugee resettlement agency, which led to her inspiration to start the camp. Viewing a documentary about a similar music camp for refugee children in New York City pushed her to create a similar opportunity in Toledo. She and Larson met at a Sufi retreat six years ago and have decided to collaborate on the camp.
Trinity Outreach Coordinator Heather Meyer explained the impact that US Together has had on refugee families in Toledo. “They help establish these families who come here,” she said. “The majority of them are from Syria, but there are (many families with children from different areas around the world) that are immigrating here. Toledo has been a melting pot for a great many years.” She pointed out that there is a community in North Toledo called Little Syria, and that the Polish, Hungarian, Irish, and Greek communities here are celebrated with festivals throughout the year.
“I think that Toledo is trying very hard to be an accepting city,” Meyer said. “These students are coming into our public schools. They are behind. They’ve known trauma like no one’s known in terms of what they’ve witnessed in their homeland. There are so many strong advocates in our city.”
When Jobin approached Trinity’s rector, Lisa Tucker-Gray, about hosting the camp, the idea was immediately welcomed. Meyer said that the camp “really speaks to the very mission of Trinity Episcopal. It is inclusive. It’s a progressive church and it’s all about rejuvenating the downtown area and reaching out to those who perhaps are being overlooked.”
The program will run from June 25–June 29 from 10am to 3pm. The children, all from US Together Toledo, will participate in a variety of activities including learning songs like “God Bless America,” written by Irving Berlin who was an immigrant himself. Donors have provided tap shoes for every child, and Toledo Tent will bring in and assemble a temporary dance floor for the tap dancing lessons with Larson.
Creating art that signifies the children’s dreams is another component of the program. Also, Ann Arbor artist David Zinn will work with them to create sidewalk chalk art outside of Trinity that, weather permitting, will remain for the day of the performance.
Another highlight will be the singing of “Sharing a Dream,” a song composed by Toledoan Craig Thompson to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death.
Meyer said that there is a connection between King’s dream for America and these children’s story “on every level. We get to share so much of Martin Luther King’s dreams with these kids that week.” The oldest young people in the program will be given lines from his speech to recite.
“This is about loving these children, giving them joy and laughter, and letting them know that we are here to help them,” Meyer said. “We will be learning so much from them. It’s just going to be an amazing experience.”
The Performance is free, with donations provided for refugee families in Toledo.
7pm | Friday, June 29
Trinity Episcopal Church | 316 Adams St
419-243-1231 | trinitytoledo.org