Inspired by her father’s journey to the United States as a young man, Lana Chalfoun has created an original song to advocate for young refugees and migrants. Her song has now won a nationwide art contest.
Lana, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Grand Rapids, wrote and recorded “Bring Them Home,” about extending compassion to people who are making their home in a new country. It was the top entry in this year’s Creating on the Margins art contest from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
The Creating on the Margins contest invites students in 7th through 12th grades to explore U.S. poverty or related issues, like migration, in the context of their faith. This year’s theme was “Share the Journey of Young Migrants and Refugees,” tying into the global “Share the Journey” campaign to support refugees and migrants. Share the Journey is an initiative by Pope Francis, Caritas Internationalis, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic Relief Services. CCHD is the domestic, anti-poverty program of the USCCB.
Lana’s father and his family left Lebanon in the 1980s while that country was experiencing war, and they moved to the U.S. Their story led Lana to sing about the challenges of starting over in an unfamiliar place, and how Christ’s disciples can respond when people in our communities are living in poverty.
For winning the national contest, Lana was awarded a $500 grand prize plus a matching grant for a CCHD-funded anti-poverty organization and a trip to a national conference. She was recognized at a Saint Thomas the Apostle assembly on June 4, where she also performed her song (see her performance in the video below or at this link). Lana was entered into the national contest after winning a contest at the diocesan level. Several of her Saint Thomas peers were runners-up in that diocesan contest, as well.
Lana enjoys using her talents to create “music with a mission.” She has been producing her own music since she was just 10 years old, writing songs about subjects like bullying, the challenges of adolescence, and pursuing dreams no matter the odds.
Pictured above, from left to right: Father Jim Chelich, pastor of Saint Thomas the Apostle parish and school; Lana's father, Nagib Chalfoun; Lana's mother, Stacey Chalfoun; Lana; educator Deborah Pieri; Mary Wernet, the CCHD intern who coordinated the contest in the Diocese of Grand Rapids; and Maggie Walsh, CCHD diocesan director.