Building Spaces for Belonging

Building Spaces for Belonging

About this time last year, the world watched in horror as families in Afghanistan took desperate action to flee the Taliban. You may remember images of cargo bays on huge military planes filled with people or radio recordings of pilots sharing shockingly large numbers of passengers onboard.

Hundreds of families have since arrived in West Michigan in search of safety, freedom, and new opportunities. Their plight, unfortunately, did not end once they set foot on American soil.

Resettlement is not enough

With so many hoops to jump through, resources and services to navigate, a new language to understand, and the very real hurdle to finding housing, a job, and community, many felt the pain of hope deferred yet again.

There’s a narrative about the U.S. that has gotten a lot of air time: if you have lost your livelihood, family, or way of life in another country, resettling in the U.S. is the solution.

At Treetops, we see a much more complex story play out every day. We meet women and teen girls whose families built businesses, engaged in rich communal life, or were seen as leaders before war, persecution, violence, climate change, or economic challenges made life where they were impossible. 

Arrival in the U.S. is very rarely an end to the struggle. 

Here in the Grand Rapids area specifically, we see new neighbors experience isolation when they cannot afford driver’s training lessons or are unsure of the process for taking a driving test.

We see parents working multiple jobs to provide for their families but leaving little time for English language classes or time to connect with each other.

We see families trying to preserve their ways of life while also navigating new cultural norms without the help of new neighbors. 

In short, we see many families who live in West Michigan but do not feel like it is their home, even decades after arriving.

Building to Belong

In order for communities to be places where people can rebuild their lives, we all need to commit to a different way of living together.

You're invited to join us, and over 20 of our local partners, in creating spaces in which that different way of life can happen. Since buying our building in 2018, we have been working toward and dreaming of a space that is inhabited by our community at large. In September 2022, those dreams will start to take shape as renovations begin to turn the first floor of 906 Division Ave S into a cross-cultural community center dedicated to welcoming immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers to West Michigan. 

Picture of building exterior at 906 Division Ave S in Grand Rapids

  • Mental health services
  • Legal clinics
  • English language classes
  • Job and college fairs
  • Mentorship for entrepreneurs
  • Professional development courses
  • Certification testing
  • Citizenship classes
  • All this and more will be possible in a shared, trusted, and safe space with easy access to public transportation. 

Meeting these present needs is essential. And we also know that long-term transformation in this community must look beyond the needs of today. That’s where you–our extended community–comes in.

Cross-Cultural Community

We have very intentionally chosen to define this community center as cross-cultural. That means that whoever you are, whatever your background and story, we hope that you will find connection and belonging here as well. 

Imagine the event space being a place where community meals take place, highlighting different cuisines from around the world at each gathering.

Or picture a lunch time language class for community members wanting to learn Nepali or Swahili or Kinyarwanda or Spanish.

Perhaps you’re an entrepreneur tackling yet another roadblock but now there’s a coworking space nearby where you can find other creative people from all over the world who can tap into their experience to help you create an innovative solution you couldn’t have found on your own.

We want you to be here, so we need your help.

How to help

Treetops Collective is embarking on a community-based fundraising campaign to bring this vision to life.

You can keep track of our progress and make a gift here.

We’ll be sharing in the coming weeks about why we believe this renovation had to happen now, what community partners have joined us, and what this change will mean for West Michigan. Make sure you’re on our email list (sign up at the bottom of this page) and following along on social media (@treetopscollective). 

Ready to talk more about a transformational gift to cultivate belonging in West Michigan? Set up a time to meet with our Development Director, Abby, here. We need each and every person mobilizing and inviting their neighbors to be involved in establishing this collective space where we can share true cross-cultural community for generations!