High school grad uses cello to hold benefits for Freedom House, asylum seekers

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Rosie Burns-Pavlik is a recent graduate of Farmington Hills Harrison will soon be off to college.

But it's what she did while at Freedom House Detroit that's so inspiring. 

She puts on Orchestrating for Freedom benefit concerts, a series of concerts involving orchestra students all donating their time and talent to Freedom House, a home in Detroit for people fleeing torture and persecution in foreign countries seeking asylum in the United States.

Rosie started volunteering there a few years ago.

"She would babysit for the kids and the energy, the life, the joy, that she brought, the instant trust - the kids trusted her - the parents trusted her, and she was dedicated," said Deb Drennam, Freedom House executive director.

She says Rosie fell in love with the twin girls she babysat there while their mother took classes. Rosie's family put a donation box at their family bakery and started raising money to help Freedom House provide for the dozens of people living there while applying for asylum.

But Rosie realized she could do more.

She recognized that through her work in school there were some ways that she could increase awareness of asylum seekers. She could advocate for Freedom House in particular, and so she started doing small fundraisers.

"I decided to combine my love for playing my cello with Freedom House," she said. "We had our concert in our high school auditorium, and we raised $3,300 that first year which was amazing."

Another Orchestrating for Freedom concert the next year raised another $2,000.

But even better than the money raised, is the awareness Rosie's been able to raise about why people are forced to flee their loved ones, their countries and how Freedom House helps them through the asylum process every step of the way.

Just like the family of the twin girls Rosie's so crazy about - we've introduced you to the Hamisi family before.

"Detroit has given me everything," said Nadia Nijimbere. "They give me shelter, they give me kids, they give me my husband, they give me asylum."

"It isn't just for a better life - it's for safety it's to save your life and your family's life," said Drennam.

On this day at Freedom House, two of the 53 residents there have been granted asylum - a reason to celebrate - and for Rosie, a reason to educate people about this place that's enriched her life and so many others.

"To be able to go to Freedom House where they're so welcomed and encouraged to be who they are is amazing," she said.

Which is why she's encouraging other teenagers to embrace a charity like Freedom House - and give back through music - or any way they can.

"I just loved it so much and I knew that it was going toward a good cause so every minute I spent was completely worth it," Rosie said. “It’s not hard work if you feel passionate about it."

For more information: freedomhousedetroit.org/