Treetops Collective is a team of creatives, dreamers, entrepreneurs, community organizers, and neighbors. We're serious about creating a more welcoming world for refugees, starting right here on the west side of America's High Five.
Our Treetops Collective team comes from far and wide. And while the majority of our team has never actually lived as refugees, we’ve each spent time in other countries where we’ve experienced the struggle of being an outsider -- and also the warmth of being welcomed in.
Back Story: 15 years ago Dana gained three Sudanese refugee siblings which introduced her to their world, stories, and the process of making a new place home. In the years since, Dana has become fully invested in connecting refugees to people and opportunities, including volunteer work in East Africa and Australia around Community Development, a BA in International Development Studies from Calvin College, working with entrepreneurial women in Northern Uganda on small business development, and in refugee resettlement in West Michigan.
Places she’s felt welcomed: Mexico, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, Australia, and the U.K.
Back Story: Tarah received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Business from Lee University in 2008. Upon graduation, she settled in Asuncion, Paraguay where she started a small social enterprise with 17 women living and working in the city garbage dump. After moving to Grand Rapids, Tarah worked in a number of non-profits developing community programs and building marketing and fundraising campaigns. She also entered the stationery and gifts industry, creating products and doing sales and marketing. In an effort to fuse her two loves of community work and conscious brand production, she went on to complete a master’s in Sustainable Business from Aquinas College. In her personal life, Tarah has befriended local refugee families, walking alongside them through the resettlement process and connecting them with people and opportunities in Grand Rapids.
Places she’s felt welcomed: Ghana, Paraguay, UK, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Argentina, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, China, and Mexico.
Back Story: Shadia met Dana the day she arrived in Grand Rapids as a Rwandan refugee, over dinner in a small Lutheran church. With a degree in Human and Social Development from the University of South Africa and firsthand experience of the challenges of resettling, Shadia brings an informed, compassionate and needed perspective to the work of Treetops Collective -- she was also our first board member. In her everyday life, Shadia works in the refugee community both with an educational organization and a translation service. She plans to pursue a Masters in Counseling in the near future.
Places she’s felt welcomed: U.S. and Botswana.
Back Story: Clementine is studying Elementary Education at Grand Valley State University with a focus on language arts and will graduate in 2018. She has worked with youth and children through mentoring programs, churches, and the YMCA. She came as a refugee when she was nine years old with her family. She’s excited to walk with newcomers as they make West Michigan their home.
Places she’s felt welcomed: U.S., Canada
Women's Community Organizer
Back Story: Edna came to West Michigan from Rwanda as a student in 1993 and received her B.S. in Health Science from Grand Valley State University. She started translating for Swahili and Kinyarwanda speaking families over fifteen years ago. She was one of the first Rwandan women in Grand Rapids and remembers the challenges of making West Michigan her home. She is passionate about helping fellow women get acquainted with their new community. Edna’s firstborn son is currently a student at Howard University and her youngest son is a Junior at East Kentwood High School.
Places she’s felt welcomed: Congo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Kenya, U.S.
Roland earned his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Notre Dame and has served as Professor of Economics at Calvin College since 1983, where he is also director of the International Development Studies program. He lived for seven years in various countries of Central America and from 1986 to 1989 was the founding director of the Latin American Studies Program of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. Roland has also led Calvin College semester programs in Ghana and Honduras and has completed research on civil society, non-governmental organization (NGO) partnerships, and business development in roughly 10 developing countries. He is very interested in helping make Grand Rapids a city where everyone, especially immigrants and refugees can find a home.
Places he’s felt welcomed: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Ghana.
Kate is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, and works for the Christian Reformed Church's Office of Social Justice. She has worked on educating and organizing Christians on various issues, including immigration reform. She is a graduate of Calvin College and Western Theological Seminary.
Places she’s felt welcomed: Honduras, Japan, Guatemala, Mexico, France, Israel/Palestine, Kenya
Elizabeth (Liz) is a graduate of Cooley Law School and St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. Liz spent two years in St. Paul, Minnesota as an Americorps volunteer, co-directing an after-school program for immigrant children and interning with the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights. During law school, Liz externed at the Immigrant and Refugee Appellate Center, a boutique law firm in Northern Virginia. After graduating in 2007, Liz practiced civil litigation at a Troy, Michigan law firm, while volunteering as a pro bono attorney at the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School. In 2009, Liz returned to her native Grand Rapids to become the Staff Attorney, and later the Legal Services Director at Justice for Our Neighbors West Michigan. Liz is a passionate legal advocate for refugees and immigrants and an attorney at Monsma Law Office, a private immigration law practice she founded in 2016.
Places she’s felt welcomed: Cuba, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Canada.