Interactive Marketing Director
“This land is your land,
this land is my land
to the New York Island
from the Redwood Forest,
to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”
Watching a beautiful group of children at Hser Ner Moo sing this song at closing of the Welcome Center grand re-opening ceremony was a priceless moment. It didn’t matter that they were singing in 12 different keys, or that the wind was blowing their St. Patty’s day hats off, or that English was not their first language. As I looked around the crowd– every face, from the Mayor to the news camera men, from UWSL President to the center volunteers, everyone had the same look–big smiles and eyes full of hope for the future.
Working for the marketing department at United Way of Salt Lake, I attend a plethora of events. I show up in my LIVE UNITED t-shirt, armed with my camera, and do my best to capture these timeless moments on film. I’m there to do a job, but it always surprises me that I get really emotionally invested. There is something that happens when I look through the lens of a camera, I start to really see people.
Most of the people at the Hser Ner Moo Welcome Center grand re-opening this weekend are people I see all the time: Cherie Wood, Mayor of South Salt Lake; Deborah Bayle the President and C.E.O of United Way of Salt Lake; Chris Snyder, Chief of Police of South Salt Lake; Demoina Voniarisoa, Raunde Everett, Kari Cutler, Troy Bennet, Kendrick LaFleur, and so many other South Salt Lake/Hser Ner Moo staff and volunteers. I have taken many pictures of these great folks at events over the years, but looking through the lens of my camera, this time I saw them all just a little differently.
Something has been changing in our community. People are working together, putting aside their own agendas, and looking at what is best for the children and families in our neighborhoods. Hser Ner Moo Welcome Center is an amazing example of the power of partnerships. A tiny little center, housed in a donated apartment, has become the hub of activity for families in the South Parc Apartment Complex. Many people and companies, nearly 40 partners to be specific, saw a need for the center to have better and more efficient space. Everyone pitched in what they could. The City of South Salt Lake, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, and United Way of Salt Lake counted on Okland Construction to lead the way in this project. With just a little start up money, Okland gathered expert companies in tile, glass, windows, construction, supplies, paints, and so much more who donated their time, talent, and resources to the project. The outcome was astounding! The center is now a beautiful space with classrooms, an office, large meeting space, and a computer lab.
I wish you could have been there with me, and could have seen the joy and hope in each face. Opportunities for a better life are becoming a reality for these children and their families. The Hser Ner Moo Welcome Center now has an awesome space to keep doing what they have always done… provide a safe place for refugees and immigrants to realize their dreams, live healthy lives, and prosper now and into the future.