This year we proudly partnered with the Refugee Empowerment Center as our main pro bono client. With recent world events and national controversy, we’re excited to share a little bit more information about this amazing organization and the delightful people with whom they work – refugees from around the globe.

Refugees are people in flight from a desperate situation. They don’t leave their home by choice, but were compelled to seek asylum in another country because of persecution.

The Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha was formerly called Southern Sudan Community Association (SSCA), because that’s really how the organization got started: resettling folks exiting the tumultuous situation in South Sudan in the 1990s and early 2000s. The organization was actually founded by refugees, with whom it maintains close connection. Their tagline is, appropriately, “By Refugees, For Refugees.”

Refugee Empowerment Center logoRefugee Empowerment Center logo

The organization’s name change this year was precipitated by a desire to create a brand that more accurately reflects the many different cultures represented (no longer a primarily Sudanese population), as well as the group’s development into a true community center, with evolving programs for these multicultural needs.

Before and afterBefore and after

How wonderfully multicultural they are! When we toured the Empowerment Center’s offices, Oxide was able to meet some refugees from Cambodia, Burma, and Afghanistan.

We visited these folks in their pre-literate ESL class, in which they begin to learn English by repeating sentences like, “My name is [Mandy]. I am from [the United States].” As they took turns telling us those two sentences, some of them grinned proudly as they spoke, but one adorable lady smiled sheepishly and covered her cheeks with her hands.

These people arrive in Omaha having escaped a dangerous, often traumatic situation. Many of them don’t speak any English. Some of them have travel debt and have exhausted their savings.

The staff at the Refugee Empowerment Center are, in my personal opinion, miracle workers. They help new refugees use their allotted $1,125 (per individual) to cover things like the deposit and first month of rent, utilities, household supplies, a bed, and groceries. Then they help provide English training, transportation to medical and legal appointments, and preparation for employment.

One of my personal favorite programs is the Root Down Community Gardens, which trains refugees how to farm in this climate and then provides food for all the gardeners, with enough left over that they can sell it at neighborhood markets.

An identity directly based on the refugees’ original artwork

The logo we designed is directly inspired by linocut prints made by refugees in the Empowerment Center’s educational programming. In a literal way, the refugees themselves have “made” this logo. This is both a testament to the quality of education they provide, as well as a beautiful artistic expression on the part of the refugees.

Sample of the orriginal linocut printsSample of the original linocut prints

The blossoming flower and leaves represent both growth and flourishing through empowerment, as well as the coming together of many diverse parts into a unified whole. The different plant shapes symbolize diversity among the folks at the Empowerment Center, as well as the diverse array of services and programming they provide.

Color paletteColor palette

We opted for a warm, approachable color palette for several reasons. The many colors of the logo reflect the diversity of the populations that the Center serves. The colors also evoke the various countries from which the refugees come. In addition, the palette is a reflection of the welcoming, hospitable spirit at the core of what the Center does.

Business cardsBusiness cards

It has been our pleasure to get to know a bit more about the staff, volunteers, and refugees involved with the Empowerment Center. I encourage you to learn more about what they are up to. Here’s their Facebook page, where you can stay updated on current events. (They’re currently doing a lot of community education about what “refugee” actually means and the process by which refugees come to Omaha.)

Moving truck liveryMoving truck livery

I’m very proud that Oxide developed a meaningful and compelling identity for the Refugee Empowerment Center that will help them showcase their contributions to the community.

View the project page for Refugee Empowerment Center.