SOUTH SALT LAKE As officials dedicated the Hser Ner Moo Community Center on Tuesday, they lauded it as a place where refugees will find help adjusting to life in America.
The center is a renovated apartment in South Parc Townhomes, the same complex where 7-year-old Moo was killed earlier this year. As the center was built, the people who live in the apartments began to get back on their feet.
"It was a tragic event that brought us together," South Salt Lake Mayor Bob Gray said at the dedication ceremony. "The good part is it did bring us all together."
Moo lived with her family in the complex near 500 East and 2200 South. They are refugees from Myanmar who spent years living in a camp in Thailand before moving to Utah.
After a massive search effort, the missing girl was found slain in April, in an apartment just feet from where her family lived.
Moo's name now sits over the door of the community center where her father, Cartoon Wah, hung a painting of his only daughter Tuesday.
Gerald Brown is director of the state's Office of Refugee Services, an agency created in February to help the approximately 900 refugees who move to Utah each year. He spoke at the dedication ceremony to the refugees who now call South Parc home.
"As long as we remember who she was, she'll never be dead," he said. "You've got to be a survivor. You've got to be tough. All of the refugees here are survivors."
The community center will teach classes in English, financial planning and social skills. Last week, children were given immunizations at the center. Books line the shelves in a room where tutors will help schoolchildren with their homework.
The center was pieced together through donations and volunteer hours, officials said. Many children from the complex refugees from nations including Somalia, Myanmar, Russia and Iraq found purpose in helping to renovate the building.
Maung Chan, a high school senior who has lived in South Parc for 10 months since leaving Myanmar, was one of dozens of refugees who spent hours painting the center.
"I visit (Hser Ner Moo's) family every week," he said. "Everyone is OK."
On Tuesday, children laughed as a clown performed magic tricks and made balloon animals. It was an entirely different scene from the silence that settled over them in the days following Moo's death.
"You'll never find a stronger community than this," said Carrie Pender, a refugee outreach specialist with the Granite School District.Pender said her doorbell broke from use as South Parc residents came to her home for answers after the girl's death. With the center now open in the complex, Pender said she hopes even more refugees will take advantage of its services.
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