There’s Work to Be Done

When the opportunity to lobby for refugees in Washington D.C. arose, Habiba Rashid jumped at the chance. MCC’s former Executive Director, Peg Chemberlin, was collaborating with Oxfam on a World Refugee Day advocacy day, and turned to MCC Refugee Services to see if any former refugees on our staff would be willing to travel to D.C. and share their story on the Hill. Habiba immediately recognized this as a life-changing opportunity and made room in her schedule as a full-time employee and mother of 6 to make the trip. Habiba credits Oxfam with excellent organization for this event that included former refugees from across the country. They organized participants’ travel and hosted an event the evening before the lobby day to provide training on what to expect during their meetings with Representatives and Senators, Congressional etiquette, and details about Oxfam’s specific advocacy goals. The following day, Habiba had in-person meetings … Continue reading

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A Fond Farewell: Margo Druschel

After two and a half years with Mankato Refugee Services, our Program Director, Margo, will be stepping down from her position. As the second program director to lead our Mankato team, Margo has worked very hard to expand the program and develop staff capacity. Under her leadership, MCC Refugee Services experienced tremendous growth and impact in our Community Health Worker program and educated many providers and community members. They have also expanded the Tapestry Program by adding Teen Tapestry and Immigration offerings during her tenure. As she departs this role, Margo expressed her confidence in the whole Mankato team who have increased their capacity as they do great work and advocate for refugees in Mankato. She is also grateful for the opportunity to have worked with staff members who are also members of refugee communities to set and maintain good boundaries so that they can plan for longevity in the … Continue reading

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Frostbite: An Unknown Danger

This January, Mohamed Ibrahim, MCC’s  former Community Health Worker, visited Mariam and her family to talk about her son’s asthma. While there, he noticed that Said (age 6) was hiding his hands behind his back. When Mohamed asked him why, he saw immediately that Said had severe frostbite. It turned out that Said had spent the last few frigid days playing outside in the snow, even though he’d lost his gloves. No one in Mariam’s family had heard of frostbite before and they were concerned by the painful state of Said’s hands. The story of how his frostbite was finally resolved is continued below, but first we’ll introduce Mariam and her family. Mariam, a single mother of seven children, moved to the Mankato area last November. She had already lived in the United States for a number of years and become a US citizen, but she relocated to Minnesota to … Continue reading

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New Staff Profile: Lah Lah Doo

Eight years ago, Lah Lah came to Minnesota as a 12 year-old refugee with her family and was resettled by MCC Refugee Services. Today, she’s working as a Case Aide in our resettlement program, helping new families as they arrive to Minnesota. Lah Lah is the oldest of four children in her family, and she was just 6 years old when her family fled Burma and moved to a refugee camp in Thailand. After 6 years in the camp, her family was approved to come to the US as refugees and they made the long journey to Minnesota. Not long after Lah Lah and her family arrived, they met an MCC volunteer named Jennie who had been assigned to assist a neighboring  family in their apartment building. Despite being quite new herself, Lah Lah’s mother encouraged Lah Lah to help interpret between her neighbors and Jennie, and they developed a … Continue reading

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Refugees Don’t Stay Refugees Forever

Refugees don’t stay refugees forever. Hassan Ibrahim’s life provides a clear illustration. Hassan was only 4 years old when he fled his home in Somalia at the outbreak of the civil war in 1991. He grew up in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, where he completed high school and a university education, as well as marrying and starting a family with his wife. Their lives took a major turn when they were approved for resettlement in the US as refugees and arrived in Indiana in August of 2016. After just two weeks, they relocated to Mankato to be close to family and friends. Now, Hassan says that Mankato is home and he’ll never leave, unless he was to go back to Africa. He loves the calm, peaceful character of Mankato, the reliable public transportation, the presence of a thriving university, and the welcoming nature of Mankato’s people. When he arrived in … Continue reading

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New staff profile: Maggie Druschel

Ever since she was a young child, Maggie remembers paying attention to the news and then going to the family atlas to look up the areas of the world that were referenced. A lifelong interest in geopolitical issues and the movement of people led her to a new position at MCC Refugee Services as the Team Manager of our Case Management team. Maggie grew up in New England and studied political science and community development at the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT. She had hopes of working in international relations, possibly with the United Nations, but during college she started to volunteer with an organization serving the Somali and Burundian communities. This exposure showed her that she could do very international work even in the US, and she began working full-time during the summers with a program serving refugee youth. The refugees she encountered had not received much integration … Continue reading

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Applying for the American Dream

Each step in the immigration process opens up new opportunities for former refugees. Far more than just getting a new id card, an upgrade in immigration status can open the door to new and better jobs, security from deportation, freedom to travel, the right to vote, study in college, and ability to apply for additional family members to join them. We are asked for our immigration status throughout our lives, but most native-born American citizens don’t realize that’s what they’re being asked when they provide their birth certificate at important junctures in life. For families who came to the US as refugees, citizenship has incredible meaning. For some, it has been a life-long dream, and for others it is a profoundly meaningful way to belong in the country that has welcomed them. Our Immigration Services team has worked with many single, widowed mothers to attain citizenship for them and their … Continue reading

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Don’t Try This at Home—Qualified assistance for immigration applications is vital

The form to apply for US Citizenship may not look overly intimidating. You can view it online easily. But what the average person filling out this 20-page form might not appreciate is the fact that every single question triggers a different provision of US immigration law and that a single error can lead to a denied application or worse, like possible deportation proceedings. This is why seeking assistance from a qualified immigration provider is so critically important.   MCC Refugee Services is one of a few agencies in the Twin Cities and Mankato that provides immigration legal assistance to former refugees applying for immigration documents. Applications for US Citizenship are just one of the many processes that MCC Refugee Services’ staff handles. The Immigration Services team also helps with certificates of citizenship for children, Green Card applications and replacements, travel documents, and family reunification petitions. Unlike a well-meaning friend, or … Continue reading

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Refugee Health in the Metro:

Mary Kelso, MCC’s Team Coordinator for Intensive Case Management, accompanied Said to a doctor appointment, knowing from previous conversations that he was dealing with a tremendous amount of back pain. When they reached the end of the appointment time, she noticed that the subject of his pain had not come up at all, and she asked permission to share about it with the doctor. Said assented, and when the doctor heard about the patient’s back pain, he asked “Why didn’t you mention this?” Said’s response was “You never asked about my back.” This simple anecdote points to the importance of the education, advocacy, and accompanying work that case managers in our Intensive Case Management (ICM) program provide.   Mary Kelso and Yassah Mulbah are full-time case managers for refugees with complex health issues in our metro office’s ICM program. They help coordinate care for and work intensively with individuals who … Continue reading

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For the Health of the Community

As in many cultures, talking about mental health and seeking treatment for mental illness carries a certain amount of stigma in the Somali community. At a recent Health Connections event in Mankato, Community Health Worker Mohamed Ibrahim wanted to have an open conversation about mental health without triggering the walls people put up when they hear terms like anxiety and depression. In a partnership with mental health counselors from Counseling Services of Southern Minnesota, a nearby agency working to serve Mankato’s diverse population, Mohamed and CSSM designed creative communication to address mental health issues. They brought visual charts and asked questions about whether or not people have trouble falling asleep at night because of worries, feel overwhelmed by daily tasks like getting the kids ready for school, or don’t feel like eating because of sadness. This approach lead to a lot of conversation among group participants, and opened the door … Continue reading

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