Erin Guinup ’96 created a community through music.

Erin Guinup ’96 was at church, listening to a sermon about the growing refugee crisis in Europe, when she was inspired to take action. She couldn’t help the thousands of displaced people suffering far away, but she could do something to help local immigrants and refugees feel welcome in their new communities. Initially, she thought of teaching English, but as a choral conductor, vocal coach, and classically trained soprano, she had something more unique to offer. Music, after all, is an international language. In 2016, she approached Tacoma Community House with the idea of gathering people together to sing.

Three years and nearly 30 performances later, the Tacoma Refugee Choir is still growing. Its nearly 400 members represent 44 countries. They are a mix of longtime Tacoma residents and newly arrived refugees and immigrants, including seniors, students, and families. They perform concerts in and around their community—even sharing their songs and stories at TEDxSeattle—and their goal is always the same: to inspire hope, unity, and action.

“We have become a family for people who often come to the United States without a family,” Erin says. “Knowing that someone cares about your success can be really powerful. Too many people don’t have that.”