Interview with Compass Project Chicago Partner: World Relief

Ballet 5:8 is thrilled to partner with World Relief Chicago & World Relief DuPage/Aurora for Compass Project Chicago, an evening of dance that reflects on the challenges of navigating current issues and cultural tension with compassion. A portion of each Compass Project Chicago ticket purchased will be donated to World Relief. We asked Tabitha McDuffee from World Relief to share more about their work and how it connects with Compass Project Chicago.

World Relief's Tabitha McDuffee

 Artists of Ballet 5:8 in  Strangers and Angels  .

Artists of Ballet 5:8 in Strangers and Angels.

Q. Can you tell us about what World Relief does?

A. World Relief’s mission is to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable. In the Chicagoland area we do this by partnering with local churches to serve refugees and immigrants. We assist refugee families when they arrive in the U.S. by securing housing for them, through our English and Job Readiness classes, our counseling services, youth programs, and more. We work with hundreds of volunteers from local churches and other community organizations each year to provide new refugee families with transportation, English tutoring, and friendship. Many of our programs, like our free English classes and youth programs, are also available to the wider immigrant community. We also offer immigration legal services at a reduced cost to help people reunite with family members and apply for citizenship.

Q. Our partnership with World Relief for Compass Project Chicago is inspired by one of the four works in Compass, Strangers and Angels. How do you see Strangers and Angels connect with the work you do at World Relief?

 Artists of Ballet 5:8 in  Strangers and Angels  .

Artists of Ballet 5:8 in Strangers and Angels.

A. Strangers and Angels draws a parallel between Armenian refugees who arrived in the U.S. in 1917, and Syrian refugees in the present day. The ballet beckons you to put yourself in a refugee’s shoes and consider what it would be like if you were forced to flee your home. The piece also challenges the assumptions we make about who refugees are and what they are like. By the end of Strangers and Angels, audience members will probably realize that they have much more in common with today’s refugees than they originally thought.

This piece connects directly with the work we do at World Relief because every day we ask our volunteers and partner churches to put themselves in refugees’ shoes by meeting them, listening to their stories, and learning from their experiences. Through these interactions we frequently see people’s assumptions about refugees change. Our vision is to see churches and individuals responding to the refugee crisis with compassionate action as their eyes are opened to our shared humanity.

Q. We're so glad you were able to attend the Chicago premiere of Compass last November - could you share a little bit about your experience seeing the performance and how it impacted you?

 Artists of Ballet 5:8 in  Strangers and Angels  .

Artists of Ballet 5:8 in Strangers and Angels.

A. As a former dancer myself, and now an employee of World Relief and an advocate for refugees and immigrants, I was so excited to see that Ballet 5:8 had chosen to address these challenging themes through their art. I had high expectations for Compass, and they were not only met, but exceeded. During the performance I experienced a full range of human emotion – wonder, delight, and happiness during All God’s Children, both joy and lament during Shades of Refrain, gut-wrenching grief during The Mother, and conviction, compassion, and hope during Strangers and Angels. Those emotions have stayed with me since I attended Compass in November last year; it is an experience I will not soon forget.

Q. Where can we learn more about World Relief?

A. You can learn more about World Relief on their website (worldrelief.org). If you’re interested in volunteering with a local office, you can find World Relief Chicago’s website here, and World Relief DuPage/Aurora’s here. Make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram as well!