A Friend Like You

Have you or someone you’ve known ever lived abroad for an extended period of time? If so, you know that the adventure was both exciting and at times lonely.  Learning a new language, engaging foreign customs, and attempting to navigate complex city transportation can be intimidating.  Living with a host family or becoming friends with a local can make all the difference in bolstering your courage to try new things.  Refugees who come to live in Minnesota face similar situations.  Four families are coming to Minnesota in the next month who are in need of a friend like you.  Please consider becoming a Volunteer Befriender for one of these families. The need is immediate and specific.

The first week of December a Karen father and his 18 year old son are arriving and will be living in St. Paul.  The father was a farmer in Burma before his family fled in 1994 to the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand.  They have one relative in MN, but she’s only available to help on weekends, which means that this father and son will be on their own much of the time.  We are looking for a male volunteer who will have a wonderful opportunity to help them get to crucial appointments during the day and learn about American culture.

In 2 weeks a Karen brother and sister in their early 20s will be joining their cousin in St. Paul.  Most of their lives have been spent in a refugee camp in Thailand as they fled Burma 17 years ago.  As newcomers without many connections in Minnesota, they would greatly benefit from an American friend with daytime availability to help them navigate their new community.

A 19 year old Karen man will be arriving in mid- January.  He fled Burma in 1997 and has been living in a refugee camp in Thailand.  His only relative here is a brand-new arrival herself, and unable to provide much support to him. We are looking for a male volunteer to be one of his first friends in America as you help him practice English, navigate the bus system and learn about Minnesota winters.

A 40 year old Karen woman and her 14 year old daughter are arriving in January.  The mother fled Burma in 1996 and her daughter was born a year later in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand.  A female volunteer Befriender with daytime availability would be a great help to assisting this vulnerable  family as they get to important appointments, practice English, and feel at home in their new community.

Befrienders make a 3-4 month commitment to meet weekly with their refugee friend.  They receive regular support and training, and help refugees feel more comfortable in their new homes through activities like practicing English, learning their way around their neighborhood, learning bus routes, and going to the library.

Please contact Jennifer Pins, Volunteer Coordinator, at Jennifer.pins@mnchurches.org or 612-230-3221 and let her know which family you’d like to befriend! New families arrive every month.

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