Welcoming Kathryn

We are so pleased to welcome Kathryn Berger to the MCC Refugee Services team in the role of Volunteer and Outreach Specialist. She fills the position formerly held by Melody Ward and has already jumped into coordinating co-sponsor teams and volunteers. We’re excited to have as part of our staff and we hope you have the chance to meet her soon! Five years ago – nearly to the date – I returned from my most recent cross-cultural “assignment” – that of Rome, Italy, where I coordinated my religious community’s international administrative center. I had been looking forward to coming home and after a brief experience working in higher-education, I can honestly say that here at MCC Refugee Services after only three weeks, I feel like I really have come home – back in a graced ministry that is at the heart of our heritage as Americans and our call as … Continue reading

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Refugees and Asylees Have the Right to Work

Recently, our Associate Director of Refugee Services, Mankato, Margo Druschel had the opportunity to collaborate with staff from the Department of Justice to share some great information about refugees’ employment rights in the US. Their article was published on the Greater Mankato Growth Workforce Series Blog, and we encourage you to read the full article there. Some of the concluding points they shared include: Refugees and Asylees have the right to work from the day they land in the US. It is their immigration status that gives authorization to work indefinitely. They are qualified to receive Social Security cards without employment restrictions. They are on a path to Citizenship, which starts with receiving the I-94 form at their arrival and automatically receiving the EAD Card, which expires after 2 years. At the end of 1 year, they are able to apply for Permanent Residency/Green Card, for which they are automatically … Continue reading

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Problems: A Matter of Perspective

Our case manager, Katia, went on a typical home visit to meet with a recently arrived Oromo refugee family. They had an interesting conversation as this couple reflected on their time so far in the United States and she was kind enough to share her reflections. During a break in our home visit, I asked our intern Carolyn if she had any questions to ask Yonas. I explained that he would be a good candidate for any questions she may have about the situation of refugees or the Oromo people as his family’s relationship with our office has been exceptionally strong and the family has demonstrated a deep comfort with me as their caseworker and friend. Carolyn asked what the situation for Yonas was like in Nairobi, Kenya, where the family was before arriving in Minnesota. “In Nairobi there are too many problems,” he explained. “The police follow you wherever … Continue reading

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A Remarkable Journey

We recently shared a fairly in-depth introduction to our Intensive Case Management (ICM) program on our blog. This program helps families with complex medical or mental health concerns to help them make a real connection with medical providers and help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to manage their own health in the long term.  This includes things like scheduling appointments, understanding what their providers are advocating, and following up with medications and insurance. You can read more about it in our previous blog post here. We wanted to share the story of another special family who has been a part of our ICM program. They have faced incredible hardship and their story is ongoing, but we have been so inspired by their resilience, devotion, and love. The Abdi family includes a mother and her three adult children—two sons and a daughter. They fled from Somalia to Ethiopia … Continue reading

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Too Much: A Call to Action

It’s just too much. I cannot begin to wrap my head around what it means for 66 million people to have been forcibly ripped from their homes and families. Saying that that equates to nearly 8 times the population of New York City doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend. I feel overwhelmed by videos that show 15,000 people arriving at a border crossing, the line stretching for miles. The mother of two small children myself, the story of a woman whose infant son was ripped from her arms and thrown into the fire before she was gang raped is physically sickening, almost unreadable. I can’t bear to imagine myself in that situation, so I look quickly away. It’s so tempting to click over to Facebook, think about what to make for dinner, wipe away the dust on my desk, anything to distract and numb. Improved technology and drone videos … Continue reading

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Seeing Each Other Clearly: MCC’s Intensive Case Management Program Helps Refugees and Health Providers Work Together

Have you ever wondered how newly-arrived refugees with complex illnesses find the care they need in the US? The health care system is incredibly complex, and navigating it successfully takes specific skills and self-advocacy. MCC has developed an Intensive Case Management (ICM) program to meet this particular need. In order to share more with you about how we assist some of the most vulnerable refugees we meet, I talked with our ICM Team Manager, Sara Lien, about the program. Sara has a Master of Social Work degree and has worked with refugees and immigrant youth in a variety of settings from private practice to high school programming and a Karen women’s healing group. What is the Intensive Case Management program? The ICM program was created at MCC in response to the needs we saw in new refugee families with complex health or mental health conditions. Over time, it has become … Continue reading

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Urgent Action Alert for Refugees

The Trump administration is considering lowering the refugee admissions number to less than 50,000 next year – A HISTORIC LOW. There are more than 22 million refugees worldwide – over half are children – the worst refugee crisis the world has ever seen. Tens of thousands of refugees were expecting to be resettled this year but were blocked by the executive order. An admissions of less than 50,000 for next year would be devastating. Not only would it leave thousands of refugees in life-threatening situations abroad, but it will have long-term impacts to the infrastructure of the entire resettlement program in the United States. This will impact the future of refugee resettlement in our country. Please take a few moments today to make a call to your members of Congress.   CALL CONGRESS TODAY! 1-866-961-4293 Call 3 times to connect with your Representative and both of your Senators. Sample Script: … Continue reading

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Building Community, One Crayon at a Time

“Build a Better World” was the summer reading theme for local libraries in Mankato this year, and the North Mankato Taylor Library brought the theme to life for children by inviting a different organization to the library each week. When they invited MCC Refugee Services Mankato to be a featured organization, we were excited to participate and asked if we could also lead the children’s story time that week. The library staff was thrilled! We made sure to invite recent Tapestry Session families with young children to the event as a way to introduce them to the library, and were pleased that 3 Somali families were able to attend with their kids, along with 8 other community members from the general public. We also included our summer intern, Lula Dayib, as an interpreter. For the story time session, Nancy Altmann read This is Me: A Story of Who We Are … Continue reading

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A Farewell Message

Our Volunteer and Outreach Specialist for the past 2 years, Melody Ward, is leaving her position this month and she wanted to share these closing thoughts with you. We will miss her dearly—she has a passion for welcoming refugees and a gift for helping church members and volunteers connect with new refugees in a way that transforms everyone. I am a fairly outspoken person. I am passionate and articulate and gregarious. You rarely have to guess what I’m thinking or feeling…I wear my emotions on my sleeve, my face reads like a book, and every other cliché you want to apply. But this weekend I found myself stunned and unable to lock down the precise words for the gut punch of hate from Charlottesville, Virginia. Shock, sadness, anger, disbelief, denial—they all swirled around me, seeming to paralyze. “What can I do?” has ticker-taped across my mind. I can’t sit back … Continue reading

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Opening Doors at the YMCA

Refugee Services’ Tapestry Project in Mankato brings together community partners, recently-arrived refugees, and welcoming individuals to strengthen the fabric of their community.  A variety of sessions help new arrivals find the community and resources they need. You can read more about it here. One of the Tapestry sessions last fall serendipitously created a new community connection that helped make the YMCA an approachable and accessible space to Somali and Sudanese refugee families in the community. It all started with the Community Resource session where several community partners, including the Y, came to share with Tapestry participants about the services they offer in the community. During the conversation, refugee participants expressed interest in joining the Y, but they were concerned about how they would tour the YMCA, apply for financial aid, and use fitness equipment. There was a lot to learn and the Y does not normally have an interpreter on … Continue reading

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