Everything of My Life

“There are only two ways, be strong or go back. I can do it. I can, I can.” With these words ringing in her ears, Sulma remained strong in her pursuit of a better life while she immigrated to the U.S.

Meet Sulma, a 19-year-old who grew up in Honduras with her emotionally abusive grandmother. At just 17, Sulma decided that she wanted a better life and made the courageous decision to immigrate to the U.S., particularly Michigan, where Samaritas welcomed her with open arms.

Samaritas Refugee Youth Services has been enacting positive change in Michigan since 1934. The nonprofit organization spans throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula with more than 60 program sites in over 40 cities. Their New Americans program offers refugee resettlement, job training and school readiness.

Delta Dental partners with Samaritas through a $25,000 corporate sponsorship as well as a separate donation of $750 specifically for their Refugee Youth Art Exhibit. At this annual exhibit, refugee youth like Sulma showcase their talent and tell their stories in a language understood by all: visual art.

Sulma’s favorite creation, “Everything of My Life,” represents her siblings who live in Honduras and Guatemala. The trees represent her three brothers while the purple and orange leaves represent her two sisters.

“I remember all the family: bad, good, everything,” Sulma says. “But, I can change the bad words for good.”

She paints her past black and gray, which represents her grandmother in Honduras; she paints her present as a bright pink flamingo standing in a pond; and she paints her future as a family of three turtles swimming in the sea, representing Sulma, her boyfriend and their baby due in August.

Samaritas Sulma
Sulma, a 19-year-old refugee from Honduras, presents her favorite painting, “Everything of My Life."

Listen to a message from Sulma:

There are only two ways, be strong or go back.

—Sulma, Samaritas refugee

While viewing Sulma’s art, a pattern emerges: Each painting uses water to symbolize life. No matter what the centerpiece is, whether a happy pink flamingo or a somber swaying tree, the water continues to flow.

“The water is life. There are bad things in our life, but the good news is the water never stops in the same place. So, bad things leave with time,” Sulma says.

Today, Sulma attends a local high school and looks not to her heartbreaking past, but to her bright future as she anticipates her baby boy.

Whether to relax or express themselves, Sulma and her peers use art as a way to unravel their past, present and future. Delta Dental strives to support strong refugees like Sulma, whose lives continue to flow despite abundant hardships.