Refugee children, Catholic school students teach each other through Learning Café | Diocese of Grand Rapids Catholic Schools Skip to main content

Refugee children, Catholic school students teach each other through Learning Café

March 6, 2018
Children play at the Learning Café.

A Lenten project is helping refugees settle in West Michigan while teaching Catholic school students about marginalized people around the world. Students from Holy Spirit Catholic School in Grand Rapids are getting to know 16 children who were born and raised in Rwandan refugee camps before coming to Grand Rapids. Many of these refugees' families are Catholic and are now members of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew.

The children are meeting each other at the cathedral through a program called the Learning Cafe. Refugee families come to teach English speakers about their language and culture, while English speakers teach the Africans about American English, culture and social skills. Holy Spirit students and the refugee children are writing letters and praying for each other, playing board games and practicing English, enjoying a musical and worshipping together, and collecting donations for school supplies.

The Holy Spirit student council is sponsoring the Learning Café as a way of participating in the “Share the Journey” campaign supporting refugees and migrants. Share the Journey is an effort by Pope Francis, Caritas Internationalis, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services to walk with the marginalized in prayer and support.

The children met each other for the first time on Feb. 27. They gathered at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew for a game night which also involved sharing some pizza and taking turns teaching each other ballet and African dance. The children said they’re looking forward to their next get-together in mid-March.

Through the Learning Café, children from different parts of the world are learning that the neighbors Christ calls us to love can come from anywhere, and inviting the stranger can start right here at home.

Holy Spirit Catholic School serves more than 280 students in preschool through 8th grade. Learn more here.

The Cathedral of Saint Andrew, an intercultural community of faith, commits itself to the kingdom of God and follows the mission that Jesus Christ undertook and revealed to all people. Learn more here.

The Learning Cafe seeks to strengthen our community by facilitating two-way learning through our programs. For more information, contact Lisa McManus at

Photos courtesy Paula Ryan.