The Denver Art Museum photography curator and learning and engagement staff met with several local community organizations while developing Common Ground: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh, 1989–2013 (on view through November 12, 2017).
Project Worthmore is one of those groups. Please read the following Q&A to learn more about how you can support refugees and displaced individuals who come to Colorado.
For those unfamiliar with Project Worthmore, can you give a brief description of the organization, the mission statement, and why it is important to assist refugees in one’s community?
Colorado welcomes roughly 2,000 refugees from around the world into our state each year. Project Worthmore was started as a makeshift response to the unmet needs of our refugee neighbors in 2009, and has grown to offer a variety of programs and services.
Our mission is to provide programs that foster community and self-sufficiency and increase quality of life among Denver-area refugees.
We believe in the inherent worth of every individual, and as we are in the midst of the largest refugee crisis since WWII, we exist to serve these families with unique stories, steadfast courage, and a resilience to survive and rebuild their lives here in Colorado.
What kind of assistance to refugees has Project Worthmore’s team and volunteers provided? And what have you learned from working with refugees?
We offer English-language classes, citizenship classes, a community-run food access program, a five-acre refugee training farm, access to Community Navigators and Family Partners, and a five-chair dental clinic.
In all of these efforts, what we have learned is that in order to have the greatest impact, we must meet the refugee community where they are and provide programs and services that are most critical for them to be successful in their new community. Our staff includes those who have gone through the refugee experience themselves, and this not only allows us to best design our programs and services, but also creates a welcoming environment for our clients. We have 23 languages spoken on our staff and continue to work to have our team represent the communities we serve.
How did Project Worthmore help the DAM prepare for Common Ground: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh, 1989–2013? From what you’ve seen/learned so far, what are your impressions of the new exhibition?
Project Worthmore has participated in a number of discussions with the curator of the exhibition and other DAM staff, including viewing Fazal’s photographs in order to provide feedback on the individual pieces of the exhibit. These discussions have also included a variety of members from the refugee community sharing their feedback and personal insights.
It’s been wonderful to see how intentional everyone at the DAM has been at making sure that the local refugee community has a voice in helping make decisions, and we feel honored to have been involved with this process.
What advice would you give visitors who, after viewing Common Ground, may wish to get involved in helping their community?
Definitely consider the talents and skills that you bring to the table, as well as the amount of time you can give as you look for a place to volunteer. The sweet spot for any organization is the intersection between a volunteer’s passion and available time and the organization’s goals and programs. Being involved can look like assisting in an English-language class, using your professional skills to serve the organization, or educating your social networks about the challenges refugees face coming to and resettling in the Denver area.
Also, it can sometimes seem daunting to volunteer in a situation where the language barrier can be significant. This obstacle can be overcome with patience, a bit of intercultural understanding, and a willing, adventurous spirit. It also helps to remember that refugees tend to want the same things that anyone wants—a safe place to live, a way to make a living for their family, and opportunities for their children.
There are many wonderful organizations that serve refugees in the Denver metro area, and if you are interested in finding out more about volunteering at Project Worthmore, please send an email to email@example.com.
What can DAM visitors and the Denver community look forward to from Project Worthmore?
We have an upcoming event that should be especially of interest to the DAM community—an art gallery and live music fundraiser on September 22 at the McNichols Building (just around the corner from the DAM!).
The 5th Annual ‘Our Neighbors, Ourselves’ event features a juried art gallery with pieces from dozens of visual artists, and live music by Tom Hagerman (of DeVotchKa) Ensemble, Bluebook and DJ sets by Jonny DeStefano & Christy Thacker (who DJ each month at the DAM). This year’s theme, “Faces of US”, looks at the qualities embodied by the people of this country. We celebrate how they are as unique as they are universal.
The evening also will feature a silent and live auction (with exciting items like a vacation to Maui, an Aspen ski package, and more), a live virtual reality experience from DenVR, and opportunities to hear from our community and connect with our work and mission.
Tickets are now on sale at projectworthmore.org with early bird pricing until September 8.