Over 70 Professionals Attend Mental Health Trainings!

Refugee mental health can be challenging work for mental health providers. Cultural differences, language barriers, and traumatic histories create special needs in many refugee populations. Beginning in 2010, Refugee Services spearheaded an effort to improve mental health services for refugees through a series of trainings for mental health providers, organized and facilitated by Sue Johnston, LICSW. This spring, Refugee Services hosted five trainings with over 70 participants and wait lists of up to 20! In three full-day and two half-day trainings, psychologists, clinical social workers, and other mental health providers learned about working with interpreters, conducting diagnostic assessments, treating victims of torture, and more. Guest presenters included expert psychologists, professional interpreters, representatives from refugee groups in the Twin Cities, as well as bi-cultural mental health providers from around the state. The Refugee Mental Health trainings spread awareness of needs and best practices in refugee mental health, connected professionals to helpful … Continue reading

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VISTAs: A Legacy of Service

MCC Refugee Services has been fortunate for the past 6 years to host 18 members of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. This year the VISTAs impacted the lives of more than 500 refugees by coordinating over $66,000 in in-kind and financial donations for refugees. These projects have included housing, employment, mental health and community outreach. Read on to hear which projects each VISTA enjoyed most during their year at MCC: Mina: Healing Resources Assistant “I have been most excited about the surveys with psychologists that I have been conducting along with Sue Johnston, MSW, LICSW. We have been calling all of the mental health providers in Minnesota that health insurance providers have told us are competent to provide diagnostic assessments cross-culturally. It has been interesting and concerning to talk to so many psychologists with so many different approaches to testing and working with interpreters. I am looking forward to compiling all … Continue reading

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MCC Opens New Mankato Office

Minnesota Council of Churches opened a Refugee Services office to serve the Mankato area on April 1st, 2012. The primary goals of  the MCC Mankato Area Refugee Services office is to serve refugees who have chosen to make the Mankato area a home for their families, and to strengthen community partnerships with local service providers, public entities, and faith based communities to support their transition to self-sufficiency. Jessica O’Brien has been hired to serve as Associate Director of this new MCC Mankato Area Refugee Services office. This spring the Mankato Free Press published an article highlighting our new office. Click here to read the full story. “When the Minnesota Council of Churches was deciding where to build its first outstate office for refugee assistance, Mankato stood out. That wasn’t because refugees were coming here directly from their home countries. Mankato isn’t designated by the federal government as a first stop … Continue reading

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Bhutanese Red Rice Recipe

This week, we bring you a new recipe to try featuring Bhutan’s famous red rice. Enjoy! Ingredients 1 c. red rice (http://www.lotusfoods.com/Bhutan-Red-Rice/p/LOT-00160&c=LotusFoods@All ) 2 Tbsp. butter ½ bunch green onions, finely chopped ½ c. carrots, diced ½ c. shitake mushrooms, finely chopped ½ tsp. thyme 3 bay leaves 2 c. vegetable stock Directions: Wash rice with cold water. Soak in warm water for 1 hour. Heat butter in a pot, stir in onions and cook 5 minutes. Add carrots, mushrooms and rice, stir for 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then put it in an oven dish, cover and cook at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

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Marisol’s New-found Freedom

Working at MCC Refugee Services has opened my eyes to many things I take for granted, including bikes. I am embarrassed to say that since I got my driver’s license, my bicycle has been hanging up in my parents’ garage. However, bicycles reentered my life in full force when 25 refugees from MCC Refugee Services were given the opportunity to borrow bicycles from the Community Partner Bike Library program at Cycles for Change. I was excited to see the health and environmental benefits it would provide to newly arrived refugees and the freedom from dependence on bus schedules it would give them. But once the bicycles were distributed, I began to really understand what it means for refugees to have access to bicycles. Marisol and her son Roberto* are Cuban parolees who arrived in Minnesota in 2011 and they both received bicycles.Marisol said that before she left Cuba she was … Continue reading

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6 refugees, 2 suitcases. Help needed to furnish homes!

People pack less and less these days when they go on vacation. But how many bags would you take if you had to move across the world and knew you’d never come back? For Ali, his wife Zainab, and their four sons, two small bags held all their belongings after having fled Somalia. Now, after decades in a refugee camp, they arrived here in Minnesota last week, their new home. Ali and Zainab are among the dozens of families who are arriving this summer in Minnesota. With so few belongings, these refugees need a variety of things to set up their first American home, and to start their new life here. Right now, Refugee Services needs YOUR help, and new or gently used household items. Together, we can give each of these newcomers the warm welcome they deserve. We are in particular need of: Blankets/comforters Dining tables and chairs Dressers … Continue reading

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Design With Purpose: First round a success!

What would it feel like to walk into an apartment in a new country after days of travel—only to find it empty? In March and April, two different student groups made sure that this didn’t happen when they took up the “Design With Purpose” Challenge, collecting items and furnishing a total of 3 apartments for newly arriving refugee families in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Design With Purpose is an opportunity for groups to volunteer and set up apartments for newly arriving refugees. Refugees have escaped incredible circumstances to create a new life in Minnesota. Often, they’ve lived in a refugee camp for years, or even decades. When they step off the plane in Minnesota, not only are they exhausted from a long trip, they’re entering a completely foreign environment. Walking into a lovingly furnished apartment makes families feel like they’ve finally arrived somewhere safe. After seeing how much love and … Continue reading

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This is YOUR chance to welcome a refugee!

This month, Hussein Yusuf and his daughter finally arrived in Minneapolis after waiting 12 years to be resettled. Refugees often have to wait many years for a chance to resettle in another country, and the process is long and complex. There are lots families around the world who have finally completed that process this spring, so we’re expecting many vulnerable families to be arriving in Minnesota this summer and fall. Even before Hussein and his daughter got their first flight, MCC Refugee Services staff and volunteers were busy making their new apartment into a home. Like Hussein, refugee families arriving this summer will be starting from scratch, and in order to abundantly welcome them into our community, MCC Refugee Services needs YOUR help. We are in sincere need of the following items to prepare for the large number of refugees we are expecting through the rest of the year: • … Continue reading

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Welcoming Mu Lah’s Family: A Guest Volunteer Post

This spring 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 months 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 … Continue reading

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Spring Sprucing: Cleaning supplies needed to welcome new refugee families

After the bitter chill of winter, Mae Lay Mu is ready to throw the windows wide open in her apartment and feel the fresh air infuse her home. Mae Lay Mu arrived in Minnesota with her husband and children during January and felt cooped up in their new home. Now that the weather is warming and birds are singing, Mae Lay Mu is ready for a change. She loves her new apartment but realized that the dirt and winter road salt had left her home gritty and in need of a spring cleaning. Determined to get her home looking and feeling as fresh as the weather outside, Mae Lay Mu set to work with her broom, all-purpose cleaner, vinegar, baking soda, bucket, and cleaning rags, all provided by generous donors to MCC Refugee Services. Can you help a new refugee like Mae Lay Mu spruce up their new home for … Continue reading

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