Dear Santa…

As the holiday season approaches, we thought we’d share some of our wishes with you. Please feel free to share this wish list with your family and friends, and add a few items to your holiday shopping list! Dear Santa, As Refugee Services helps welcome new refugees to Minnesota, we set up new homes for many families who arrive with just a bag or two of their most precious belongings. That means, we need lots of household items every year. Here are some of the things we need the most right now: – hand towels – slotted spoons – kitchen knives – can openers – measuring cups/spoons – pitchers – tea pots Some of these things might be a little harder to fit in your sleigh, but here are some of the other items our staff wish for this year… – Public information and signage in Karen and Burmese – … Continue reading

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An Affirmation of Welcome

We wanted to take the opportunity to share with you a wonderful piece from the UNHCR that serves as an affirmation or meditation on welcoming the stranger. We hope that it brings you hope and encouragement this holiday season. Thank you for being an incredible community. WELCOMING THE STRANGER: AFFIRMATIONS FOR FAITH LEADERS From:    http://www.unhcr.org/51b6de419.html A core value of my faith is to welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced, the other. I shall treat him or her as I would like to be treated. I will challenge others, even leaders in my faith community, to do the same. Together with faith leaders, faith-based organizations and communities of conscience around the world, I affirm: I will welcome the stranger. My faith teaches that compassion, mercy, love and hospitality are for everyone: the native born and the foreign born, the member of my community and the newcomer. I will remember … Continue reading

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Volunteer Spotlight

Pete Kallal

Volunteers are so essential to the work we do at Refugee Services. Since every volunteer is so unique and brings their own perspective to the work of welcoming new refugees, we wanted to introduce you to one volunteer this month to give you just a peek! Meet Pete. Pete Kallal started volunteering with Refugee Services in 2013 after teaching 4th and 5th grade for 35 years. He began as a Bridging appointment volunteer, but quickly found his niche teaching Jump Start classes. (Jump Start is a 3 week class that introduces brand new arrivals to key skills for life in America, like bus riding, financial literacy, job seeking, and safety). What inspired you to get started? Thee generations ago, my great grandparents immigrated from the Czech Republic. We are all immigrants (except Native Americans) at some point. As a teacher, I used to do research on students’ last names to … Continue reading

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Through the Eyes of a Refugee…

Maybe you’ve called the Twin Cities home all your life, or perhaps you’re a recent arrival yourself. Either way, it’s a fun and insightful experience to see your home through the eyes of a newly-arrived refugee neighbor. Whether you’re a volunteer Befriender, Resettlement Assistant, or part of a co-sponsor team, we hope you’ll find some ideas here of places you might want to experience with your refugee friend. We’d love to hear your ideas of must-see attractions in the Twin Cities too! Farmers’ Markets: The Twin Cities is home to TONS of farmers’ markets all summer long, and even hosts a couple through the winter. Taking a walk through an open air market with a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables might feel like a welcome taste of home to some refugees. Plus, many of the markets accept EBT funds to pay for food, so this could be a … Continue reading

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Syrian Refugee FAQ

What are some of the facts of the Syrian crisis? There are more refugees in the world today than at any point since WWII.  Over 4 million Syrians have fled their country and roughly another 8 million remain displaced within Syria. How many of the Syrian refugees have come to the US? Since 2008 there have been 1,729 Syrians resettled to the United States through the United States Refugee Admissions Program.  By far the largest number has arrived this year, amounting to 1,454 refugees, or roughly 84% of all Syrian arrivals since 2008. The majority of Syrians resettled by all 9 national resettlement agencies have gone to Chicago (IL), Houston (TX), San Diego (CA), Troy (MI), Phoenix (AZ), Tucson (AZ) and Louisville (KY).  Syrians also remain a population with a low US Tie rate (UST=a US family member or friend that the refugee is coming to the US to join), … Continue reading

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Precious Cargo

I remember how nervous I was the first time I drove a refugee family home from the airport. I was so keenly aware of every lane change, stop, and turn because I kept thinking about what precious passengers I had that night. I was their first introduction to America, to Minnesota, and to their new lives. As refugees, I knew they’d already experienced untold persecution, trauma, and fear. I knew they’d waited for years in a refugee camp, and waded through months of paperwork and interviews just to get to this point—arriving in the United States to start a new life. I’m sure they were full of hope and uncertainty. As I drove, I wanted them to feel comfortable, and to be reassured that they had come to a safe and beautiful place. I always felt badly during the winter, when the ground was covered with snow and the trees … Continue reading

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Waking Up for Work

On the days that he has work, Tek, wakes up at 2:00am to prepare food for his lunch. “I take a long time in the kitchen,” he said. At5:00am he catches a bus near his apartment, transfers to a second bus, and then walks to work just in time for his 6:00 am shift. Just getting there is a lot of work, but Tek is extremely happy to have his job. He arrived to the U.S. as a refugee from Bhutan with an optimistic attitude about his future in Minnesota and an unparalleled eagerness to start working. He took advantage of the resources offered by MCC Refugee Services including job readiness workshops, mock interviews, and assistance with job applications. Finally, he secured a position packing tomatoes with a local produce company. After the initial challenges of learning a new job, Tek reports that it is going very well- he’s even made friends with other team … Continue reading

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Introducing Melody Ward

We are excited to introduce our new Volunteer and Outreach Specialist, Melody Ward. Please welcome her as she joins the Refugee Services family! I am so grateful to be a part of the Refugee Services team as the new Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator. I have felt passionately about refugee care since 2001 when I worked with refugees in the Chicago, IL area. Back then, we saw refugee populations from Bosnia and Iraq, and then the first influx of Sudanese “Lost Boys”. With every refugee family I met I felt my heart open up more. And with every volunteer I saw connect with and be changed by a relationship with a refugee, the more hope I had for the world. This work is wonderful, sweet, tough, natural, uncomfortable, heart-wrenching, and hope-building. I will be in the office on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday each week. Feel free to call or email me … Continue reading

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Welcoming Mu Lah

Recently, Jessi and Tyler joined our Taking Root team to give Mu Lah’s* family a warm welcome to Minnesota. As fellow newcomers to the Twin Cities, Jessi and Tyler were looking for a way to meet their neighbors and explore their new community. Read on to hear Jessi’s story of the blessing of friendship they received from Mu Lah’s family. A couple of years ago my husband and I were still relatively new to Minnesota and were aching for a way to meet new people and get involved. We knew that Minneapolis/St. Paul was home to one of the nation’s largest refugee populations and felt called to refugee support services. We had just spent two years in West Africa with the Peace Corps and knew how difficult it was to adjust to a new place, culture, and pace of life. To our great fortune, we found out about MCC and … Continue reading

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Klaw Mu –A Story of Success

A father of eight, Klaw Mu ardently says that he would give up anything but chewing betel nuts. He gives an innocent smile with his strained teeth and red lips from chewing betel nuts with slaked lime and betel leaves to reaffirm that he meant it.  When he was told that chewing betel nuts will not feed his family and, as a father, he bears the responsibility of providing for his family, he gives another innocent smile and goes into a deep thinking. Klaw Mu and his wife Du Way never thought that they will need to work to provide for their family because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provided for them in the Refugee camp. “We always thought that the UNCHR will provide for us throughout our lives,” says Klaw Mu.  Influenced by deeply rooted cultural values and their strong belief system, they found joy in having … Continue reading

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