What started out as a class assignment on a refugee outreach center in the northwest section of Rochester early last year has become so much more for RIT student Sarah Ann Jump.
“I walked into Mary’s Place a photographer. I left inspired my very first day,” says Jump, a third-year photojournalism major in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
“I felt such a connection with the place, and what they are doing, that I just kept going back,” she adds.
Jump, a native of Easton, Md., on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, recalls how struck she was by Rochester’s large refugee population while on assignment for her news editing class—part of her journalism minor.
“I had no idea what a struggle it is for these people to start new lives in America,” says Jump, who regularly blogs about her experiences.
Mary’s Place assists refugee families by providing clothing, food and important case management services such as helping obtain green cards and other needs. The outreach center also offers English as Second Language classes for adults, along with after-school tutoring for school-aged children.
“Most importantly, I believe, Mary’s Place creates a community of refugees and volunteers—a place where people not only receive assistance, but also make friends from all over the world,” Jump says. “It offers a safe environment, free from any conflict—unlike where they are coming from.”
Since January, Jump has done her best to become a friend to the many children who frequent Mary’s Place. “I play with the kids, read with them or help make lunch on Saturdays,” she says.
Her strong connection to the children—and the center overall—has made a difference.
“Sarah has made such a huge impact volunteering her time at Mary’s Place,” says Cara Breslin, assistant manager. “She’s able to capture such precious moments with our refugees—especially the children.”
“When working with refugees, it is easy to become wrapped up in their stories, which are heartbreaking, sometimes silly, and most often beautiful,” Breslin adds. “What impresses me the most about Sarah is how she has been able to find these instances within the nooks and crannies of our walls and show how beautiful they are so that we can all experience them, too.”
Jump is regularly seen with her camera, documenting community happenings. Since she has built relationships and gained the trust of many of the volunteers and refugees, she is able to capture candid moments that might otherwise be interrupted by a photographer’s presence.
Jump has produced a photo documentary in the form of a short magazine on the refugee outreach center. While the publication is free to view online and download, a printed copy is available for a cost—proceeds from which Jump has graciously donated 100 percent to the refugee outreach center.
Jump says the center has paid her in ways she would be unable to quantify.
“Kathy LaBue (director of Mary’s Place) has always told me that college student volunteers are very important to provide the refugee children with positive role models and encourage them to attend college,” Jump says. “And it works. All of the middle- to high school-aged kids that I have talked to at Mary’s Place will tell you that they want to go to college someday, and Mary’s Place will help them get there.”