SALT LAKE CITY — Daela-Kate Larson and her friends traveled from Heber on Saturday to see the opening of The Leonardo's newest exhibit, hoping it would give them ideas for a service project to help refugees.
Coloring a small portion of one of the exhibit's blank murals while listening to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech played overhead, Larson found the time for reflection and inspiration for which she'd hoped.
"I think that impacted me more, just listening," Larson said. "We drove for an hour to be here, and we learned quite a bit of stuff, actually. I'm super excited. It was worth it."
Such is the aim of the museum's new exhibit, "We Declare: An Exhibit About Human Rights." Saturday's opening is part of a three-day "Weekend of Welcome" celebrating the journey refugees make to Utah and encouraging visitors to contribute to service efforts on their behalf.
Marissa DeSimone, exhibits director at The Leonardo, said the space gives visitors, especially children, an opportunity to express their perceptions of freedom and equality, as well as find ways to help those in need.
"We think that young people have an intuitive knowledge of human rights, what is there and what people should have to live a good life," DeSimone said. "We wanted to give their voices a place to be heard."
The display includes murals commissioned by local artists that visitors can color while listening to notable human rights speeches, including addresses by Eleanor Roosevelt, Emma Watson and others.
Around the corner, visitors can place pegs in the wall representing their perceptions of freedoms of expression and association, as well as rights to health, justice, education, security and equality. A mural of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also on display.
A central feature is a video interviewing local children, some of them refugees, who say what freedom, fairness and peace mean to them.
Among the children is Azida Kahindo, 14, who came to Utah six months ago from the Congo. She watched herself in the video Saturday with a shy smile, but freedom and peace are topics she enjoys talking about openly, she said.
"Freedom to me is like doing things on your own. Nobody can oppose you," Azida said. "Everybody needs freedom, and if there is no freedom, (there is) no living."
The exhibit opened about two weeks after leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new initiative for women members to help refugees through local efforts.
The Leonardo exhibit gives visitors ideas of how to help and resettlement organizations that need volunteers, such as Catholic Community Services, the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, and the Refugee and Immigrant Center.
Volunteer services could range from being a foster parent of an unaccompanied refugee child to teaching families new to Utah how to find their way using public transportation, according to Catholic Community Services spokeswoman Danielle Stamos.
"We're really hoping that this exhibit will touch people and let them know that it is happening locally and that there is a way for them to make a difference," Stamos said. "Kids are the future, and if we teach them at a young age of what's happening and how they can make a positive impact, that's huge."
Human rights activist Pamela Atkinson said she sees the exhibit as another way to welcome Utah's refugee population of 60,000 people, which increases by about 1,200 people every year.
"We're all equal. The only difference is we have different roles in life to play, and I think with an exhibition like this, it's going to teach people to stop and think," Atkinson said.
The exhibit will be open until June, when it will move to the museum's permanent human rights gallery.
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