Community and Welcome Center brings hope out of tragedy

March 17, 2012
Author: Barbara Smith

SOUTH SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) -A young refugee girl captured the hearts of Utahns when she disappeared from her apartment complex in 2008. More than a thousand searched for her. She was found murdered just a few doors away from her own home.

Saturday there was reason to celebrate in that same refugee housing complex. A community welcome center bearing the name of seven year old Hser Ner Moo opened its doors. It offers new help for those just entering the U.S.

The children and parents who utilize the center come from more than fifty countries. Many of them live at the apartment complex where the center is located at 2250 South 500 East.

South Salt Lake City Mayor, Cherie Wood, says the new Hser Ner Moo Center serves not only the refugees who live in the area, it also helps volunteers. “We have a very large refugee population and it gives an opportunity for people to come in from the community and help the refugees help the newcomers."

The center began in a crowded space shortly after the death of seven year old Hser Ner Moo who lived only a few doors away. She and her family came to Utah from a refugee camp in Thailand to start a new life. The little girl, who had already suffered so much, was murdered by another refugee. Mayor Wood says it a tragedy that has been hard to forget. "It was a very dark day in south salt lake history and a very emotional journey to have this center today."

The Hser Ner Moo Community Center provides meal services for children, and volunteer after school tutoring. Through community donations, it has now expanded to include the space of the apartment next door. With the new improvements adult English and computer classes are offered. Childcare is also available.

Hser Ner Moo's father, Cartoon Wah says the center honors his daughter while helping others. "New design, is very good. It's very well designed. I like" He says he is happy to see so many children benefitting from the center. “ I am very happy people are here.”

Mayor Wood says the more than 150 children who frequent the center like it too. “This is their place this is their club house." She said with a smile.

The expansion of the Hser Ner Moo Community Welcome Center was funded by the United Way, and twenty community partners including Okland Construction.

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