When Khalika Kaba was relocated to the U.S. in 2008 from the Democratic Republic of Congo, he spoke little English, he knew no one and he didn’t know where to turn.
Upon his arrival in Lansing, Kaba was given a lot advice but one piece proved to be life changing — go to the Refugee Development Center .
“That place is a beginning place for many, many refugees,” he said. “They are the most helpful organization around.”
The Refugee Development Center, or RDC, is an educational nonprofit organization helping refugees acclimate to life in the U.S. since 2002. Kaba said RDC volunteers taught him how to find work, a place to live and how to enroll in classes.
But after recent federal funding cuts to the RDC, this type of assistance is in jeopardy.
Earlier this year, the RDC lost thousands of dollars that supported their after-school and outreach programs, potentially putting many of those programs on the chopping block. But several MSU student groups have made it their mission to keep these programs in place.
On Thursday, the Women’s Initiative for Leadership Development, or WILD, hosted a bake sale in the CATA Transportation Center to support the RDC and have been collecting food and clothing to donate to refugees in the area for the past several weeks.
On Monday, the Inter-Faith Council, MSU College Democrats and MSU Roosevelt Institute will partner for an a capella concert to raise funds for the center.
Director of Defense and Diplomacy for the Roosevelt Institute and political theory and constitutional democracy senior Kevin Dean said the RDC is an important asset for the community because of vital support they provide to the ever-growing refugee population in Lansing.
Upon hearing about the RDC’s funding cuts, Dean said the Roosevelt Institute knew they wanted to lend a helping hand.
“Everyone is in some economic hard times, and the RDC is included,” Dean said. “When we heard about their funding troubles we wanted to help.”
Executive Director of the RDC Shirin Timms said cutbacks have caused the center to look for ways to reorganize and potentially pull back certain programs. But Timms said the RDC still is committed to providing as much assistance as possible to the refugee population — engaging them in every facet of their life.
Timms said the RDC works with numerous community organizations. The RDC also works closely with MSU groups and student volunteers.
“I really believe (the RDC is) such a powerful place,” she said. “If we were isolated we would never be able to do what we do.”