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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New Staff Intro: Mary

MCC Refugee Services is excited to welcome Mary Kelso to the role of Refugee Program Specialist: Refugee Health! Mary studied Psychology and English at Hope College in Holland, MI before becoming a refugee resettlement case manager at Lutheran Social Services in Minnesota. She then received a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Michigan where she worked as a resettlement case manager in Ann Arbor. During that time, she also facilitated a group for high school refugee girls who were new to the US. Last summer, she had the opportunity to work with refugees in Kampala, Uganda, working with a mental health and counseling program and grant-writing. She has also traveled to the Arizona/Mexico border to learn about immigration policy and social justice work. Away from work, Mary loves to travel, peruse bookstores, practice yoga, hike & bike, garden, craft. Having grown up along Lake Superior in Michigan’s … Continue reading

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New Staff Profile: Jenna

We are excited to welcome our new AmeriCorps Member, Jenna Binsfeld! Jenna is serving as our Intensive Community Orientation AmeriCorps Member and she will be taking over the new arrivals orientation program. Jenna recently graduated from Boston University with majors in International Relations and Economics. In addition to these courses, she pursued the study of the Arabic language and service work with refugees, culminating in a semester abroad in Jordan volunteering with refugees from throughout the Middle East and Africa. She hopes to gain further knowledge of her diverse home community, and provide a platform for increased understanding and cultural fusion in the Twin Cities. Jenna is originally from the Twin Cities and would love to eventually return to the Middle East and continue studying Arabic. If you volunteer with our ICO classes or are interested in connecting with that program, we hope you’ll have the chance to meet Jenna … Continue reading

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Welcoming Strangers

Members of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul co-sponsored a refugee family from Afghanistan early this spring. Knowing that the Afghan refugee community in Minnesota is very small, we invited them and the family they co-sponsored to help welcome another Afghan refugee family that arrived this summer. One of their members, Jessica Jones, shared this beautiful reflection on the experience of going to the airport a second time and we wanted to share it with you. I pulled up to the skyway connecting the gold ramp to the airport ticketing area. “Okay, Amir, can you take the kids into the bathroom and I’ll go park the car?” I said, watching the cars queue up behind me as I blocked a lane of traffic. “And, Haley, hold Amir’s hand and stay together!” As I jumped back into the car and watched them make their way down the skyway – my daughter, … Continue reading

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Refugees in the Blogosphere

Just as there are great bloggers on every subject from cooking to computer repair, there are some very talented writers sharing their thoughts about refugees. We wanted to share a couple favorites with you and give you a taste of what you’ll see if you explore their blogs. The first two feature strong Minnesota connections! DL Mayfield: Mayfield is a well-known Christian author who writes and blogs about a variety of topics. Living and volunteering with refugees has deeply formed her sense of the world and Mayfield was deeply involved with refugee communities in the Twin Cities for a number of years. Perusing her blog or following her on Facebook, you are sure to find honest writings that will challenge the way you think about refugees. In January of this year, she shared 10 ways that you can practically help to welcome refugees. It’s an incredible article with lots of … Continue reading

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A Co-sponsor’s Story

In February of 2017, the Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (MVUUF) welcomed a Somali family of 5 and journaled about their experience each time they met with the family. With their permission, we’re sharing some excerpts here. It paints such a real and touching picture of one family’s adjustment to life in the US and the relationship they formed with their American helpers. We’ve drawn out a few stories that really spotlight the epiphany moments where volunteers and family members learned about the different lenses through which they view the world. February 7: Welcoming the Family The family arrived! It has been a busy week for them and all the volunteers who helped set up their apartment. The family is a widow and her 4 children ages 18-24. They came from Egypt where they lived since leaving Somalia in 2009. They were part of a refugee community in Cairo. The … Continue reading

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Never Settle: One Story of Finding Better Ways to Serve New Arrivals

This reflection comes from Francesca Sifferlin, our Refugee AmeriCorps member this year. She took over our already robust new arrivals orientation class, looking for ways to improve the curriculum and make it more accessible to new arrivals. As my year of service as a Refugee AmeriCorps member at MCC comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on what we have accomplished. The creation and launch of our In-Home Intensive Cultural Orientation (ICO) classes has been a rewarding highlight. MCC’s Intensive Cultural Orientation (ICO) workshops empower newly arrived refugees by providing them with the education, skills, and resources they need to succeed and attain self-sufficiency in Minnesota. Typically, students attend a 3-week classroom-based workshop that covers the topics of transportation, safety, health, education, immigration, financial literacy, renter’s education, home orientation, and job readiness. In order to expand the accessibility of these workshops and ensure everyone can participate, we developed a version … Continue reading

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