Local connection to refugee crisis

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A mom and daughter duo are raising awareness about refugees.
 
Cultural differences seem to be dividing many parts of our country but despite any tension, a local family hopes putting names to faces makes an impact.
 
Penny Eifrig and her daughter, Saede live in Lemont, Centre County.
 
Every couple of months their family picks up and moves to Berlin, Germany, a place with a steady population of refugees.
 
As of last year a over 3.2 million refugees have been allowed into the United States, according to the U.S. Department of the State.
 
In 2015 nearly 70,000 refugees were admitted to our country.
 
 “They’re more than just refugees, they are just people who have been displaced and are looking for a new start somewhere that is safe, somewhere where they can get integrated quickly and become part of society,” Penny said.
 
Last year Penny and Saede decided to raise awareness about refugees and started the They Have Names project.
 
Along with Daniel Sonnentag, a photographer, they use images to make a difference.
 
 “If you only see pictures of refugees when they’re fleeing war,” Penny said, “and they’re struggling and they’ve been traveling for months and that’s what you see, you see someone who looks different than you are.”
 
The Eifrigs spend time at a refugee camp with about 600 people and interact with families, most of which are young children.
 
“So when they get there they ‘re kinda craving that like fun part that like being a kid, a  part that they are ripped out of when they have to leave,” Saede said.
 
And they’re connecting them with pen pals in Central Pennsylvania.
 
Here’s what one letter read:
 
“Dear Benny,
 
I am doing fine. My name is Hamseh, I am 8 years old, I like to play Legos. My favorite color is red.
 
Love, Hamseh”
 
 “An 8 year old kid from Syria likes to play with Legos too, really not much different than you or me,” Penny said.
 
Penny and Saede hope thee illustrations, both colored and printed, remind others that each of them has a name..
 
“So I guess the ultimate goal is to make people aware that these people are not people to be afraid of and that we should really welcome them into our community,” Saede said.
 
Recently, “Family Refugee Welcome of Central PA,” started in State College
 
The group gives families in Central Pennsylvania an opportunity to host refugee families.
 
For more information about the They Have Names project, click here.
 

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