On our way to Sam’s Club or NorthPark Mall, most of us living in Lake Highlands drive through the heart of Vickery Meadows without much thought. But LH’s Sheree Tomba is committed to helping the refugee women living in poverty there, and she’s planning a creative new ministry to brighten lives and bring hope. She’s opening a community art studio in the heart of the VM apartment community.

Sheree first learned about the people of Vickery Meadows when she volunteered to help with an after school program for newly arrived refugees run by her church, Northwest Bible. (Her father, Neil, is lead pastor.) Before long, she was helping to coordinate the program, but her focus turned to the women who came to drop their children off at tutoring.

“I want to work more with the women of Vickery Meadows,” Sheree told me. “Many of them are depressed and isolated. They don’t speak English and they don’t have many friends here. Their husbands go to work and their kids go to school, but they don’t have a community to reach out to.”

Sheree’s goal is to use art as a creative and emotional outlet to deal with the difficulties these women have overcome and continue to face. “It takes them a long time to get here – those who’ve made it are the lucky ones,” Sheree says of the women, who come from Somalia, Nepal, Orok, Tanzania, Liberia and beyond. Many have been victims of sexual trafficking or other abuse.

This Saturday, Sheree will move from her comfortable LH home to an apartment at Vickery Meadows and set up her art studio. She’s taken a six-weeks leave of absence from her “real job,” and she’ll be spending the next few weeks getting to know residents. In the beginning, she plans to create her own artwork, drawing in curious women and sharing her plan.

“It’s not my goal to create artists but to help them discover their own identity and the essence of God through art,” says Sheree. “I think it will be interesting to see what talent and styles they bring – what they create might look different than traditional western art.” Sheree will provide some formalized instruction and hopes to have other artists come teach classes or help with projects as her ministry grows.

Sheree is planning an art show and sale in March in hopes of raising funds to support the project. The first show is likely to be her own work, but she envisions a day when the ministry – and perhaps even some of the women – find economic support through the sale of their creations.

Sheree is starting from scratch, and she says her biggest need is for art supplies. If you’d like to deliver art supplies or send a check to support her new ministry, she will happily receive them at 9511 Aldwick, Dallas TX 75238.