A Christmas Story of Welcome

Members of the co-sponsorship team from Holy Trinity Lutheran in Minneapolis worked diligently for weeks collecting furniture, household goods, school supplies, personal hygiene items, and car seats for a Karen family of 9. They also worked to line up drivers, babysitters, shoppers, and a support system to accompany their family through the first difficult weeks in Minnesota. Literally one day before the family was to leave Thailand, MCC Refugee Services received notice that their travel had been cancelled and that there was no plan to reschedule their arrival in Minnesota. Of course, everyone’s primary concern was for the welfare of the family: what was to happen to them; where would the mother find the medical attention she needed; where would they go?  Soon, the c-osponsors’ thoughts turned to all the stored furniture and supplies and what they should do with them. They offered MCC everything they had collected allowing, us … Continue reading

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New Program Launches: Teen Tapestry

During a recent Teen Tapestry session about home, Amina showed the class a sketch of the tent that had been her family’s home during their refugee years in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. “I was a refugee too, and that’s not what my home looked like,” countered Constance, who arrived as a refugee from South Sudan. For the fourteen students representing five countries in our first Teen Tapestry class, the opening session reflecting on the idea of home led to an enlightening conversation in which they realized that even though they were all former refugees, their lives and stories represent only a small glimpse of what it means to be a refugee. Since it was launched, the Tapestry Project has brought together recently arrived refugees and community partners, helping bridge the gaps and providing education on vital topics like public safety, health care, and transportation. Up until now, the … Continue reading

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Meaningful Work: An Accountant’s Perspective on Refguees

After 12 years as MCC’s Controller, Lisa Bennett and her family are relocating to a new state. In parting, she was kind enough to share this reflection on her work with the Refugee Services program. It could be easy for an accountant to feel distant from the day-to-day work of a direct service program like Refugee Services, but Lisa has truly embraced the work and mission of welcoming refugees. She has been a passionate advocate and supporter, and we will miss her! When I first started working here at MCC almost 12 years ago, I had no idea who a refugee was. Perhaps someone who is running away from something, a term having to do with the nightmare of the Holocaust? But the relevance for today? And to my life? I knew nothing. As an accountant, my role is not working with our refugee clients directly, but making sure our … Continue reading

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MCC Refugee Services Partners with Lutheran Volunteer Corps

For the first time in many years, MCC Refugee Services is excited to host a Lutheran Volunteer Corps member, and we are excited to welcome Theresa Milazzo to our team. As with similar volunteer programs, LVC members commit to a year of full-time service working with a local non-profit. Theresa was drawn to Lutheran Volunteer Corps because of their focus on inclusion, and because it provides for the unique experience of living in community with other LVC members.  She will share a house with 5 other LVC volunteers for the year and they have the opportunity to build community and reflect together on their service experiences. Membership in LVC also gives her the opportunity to explore her spirituality and passion for social justice work. Theresa is one of 23 LVC members in the Twin Cities this year, each matched with a non-profit after an interview and matching process that happened … Continue reading

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New Staff Profile: Ami Armstrong

Refugee Services’ newest staff member isn’t really new to Refugee Services at all! Ami Armstrong came to Refugee Services last fall as a senior Social Work intern from Bethel University. Originally, Ami was interested in working as a school social worker, but when an intern opportunity for her senior year wasn’t coming together, she decided to try out a placement with MCC Refugee Services. She came in with very little experience working with refugees, but loved the experience so much that she wasn’t ready to leave when her internship ended. She stayed on through the summer as a volunteer intern and we are thrilled that she will now be able to join our team as a staff member, continuing to help individuals in our employment services program. Originally from Pella, Iowa (Vermeer farm equipment and Pella Windows  made this small town famous), Ami came to Minnesota to attend Bethel University. … Continue reading

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European Delegates Visit Mankato

European delegates

Can you picture yourself in this scene? It’s a warm summer day, but dark clouds are rolling in. Outside, Somali kids are playing a game of soccer when the tornado sirens go off. You head inside but notice that the children are still engrossed in their game, seemingly unaware of the danger and the siren’s unspoken message to take shelter. Concerned for their safety, you call 911. The Mankato Police Department was hearing regularly from the community about concerns just like this and wondered if there was a way to help community members engage with neighbors in situations like this, rather than viewing them as a police concern. For example, a neighbor might have chosen to let the children or their parents know what a tornado siren means and encouraged them to go inside, rather than calling 911. This effort to build community helped lead them to create the Tapestry … Continue reading

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Creating a Perfect Blend

The Church of St. Leonard of Port Maurice and the Church of the Holy Name share a priest, but are otherwise quite different Roman Catholic parishes in Minneapolis, with their own memberships, cultures, worship spaces, and histories. They had been actively looking for an initiative to share that would bring their communities together in a common work, and after a long process of exploration and planning, they decided to work together to co-sponsor a new family in their journey from refugees to Minnesotans. The result was an incredible bonding, not just with the refugee family, but between parishes as well. Churches have been an integral part of welcoming refugees throughout America’s history, and that involvement has taken many different forms through the years. Similarly, MCC Refugee Services’ co-sponsorship model has evolved over decades to create a supportive and flexible model that allows for a variety of different expressions while still … Continue reading

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A Journey of Faith–One Year Later

When Colonial Church of Edina and Upper Room volunteers took the call from MCC Refugee Services last summer inviting them to welcome a 7 member family who had fled Afghanistan as refugees, they could hardly have imagined the bond they would form in the coming months. They shared some reflections with us as the family’s one year anniversary in Minnesota approaches, and we wanted to share a bit of their journey with you. “July 6th marks the 1st year anniversary of Abed family’s presence in Minnesota. At this time last year, MCC’s Outreach Specialist contacted me to ask whether we were prepared to support a 7 member family fleeing Afghanistan. Her question came at an inconvenient time, as July 4th was approaching, with summer vacations and all. Yet, I knew that somehow we would walk alongside this family. Many from our team rallied to ready their apartment, gather furniture, and … Continue reading

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Welcoming New Staff: Yassah Mulbah, Health Case Manager

Yassah Mulbah joins our team as a full-time Health Case Manager working with Mary Kelso to support families in our Intensive Case Management Program. Growing up, her mother always encouraged her, saying “No matter how hard things are, you can always help. As long as you can help someone, do it.” That encouragement has led to a lifelong love of service. She studied rehabilitation counseling and anticipates completing her Masters in Social Work degree this year. Before coming to MCC Refugee Services, Yassah worked as a case manager at a mental health clinic where she supported a large caseload of patients working across a broad spectrum of needs. Her work there involved a lot of advocacy for individuals because of the lingering stigmas surrounding mental illness. She has also worked with a non-profit providing employment search assistance. Originally from West Africa, Yassah’s first language is English, but she also speaks … Continue reading

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A Day in the Life of an Employment Counselor

What does it take to help individuals who recently arrived as refugees find their first jobs in Minnesota? To give you a better sense of what is involved on a day-to-day basis, we asked Refugee Services employment counselor Brittany Esau to take a few notes about some of the activities she does in an average week. As you can see, working with an individual on their employment goals is a holistic process that addresses many facets of a family’s life. -       Last week, I met with Karen family in their home to discuss employment. The husband came with a few ideas. His uncle works at a wholesale plant nursery that he knew was hiring. This week, we went to complete an application and he went through an interview. He answered the questions perfectly and was offered the job. Today I took him to complete a drug test and he will … Continue reading

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