Category Archives: General Information

MCC Refugee Services Partners with Lutheran Volunteer Corps

For the first time in many years, MCC Refugee Services is excited to host a Lutheran Volunteer Corps member, and we are excited to welcome Theresa Milazzo to our team. As with similar volunteer programs, LVC members commit to a year of full-time service working with a local non-profit. Theresa was drawn to Lutheran Volunteer Corps because of their focus on inclusion, and because it provides for the unique experience of living in community with other LVC members.  She will share a house with 5 other LVC volunteers for the year and they have the opportunity to build community and reflect together on their service experiences. Membership in LVC also gives her the opportunity to explore her spirituality and passion for social justice work. Theresa is one of 23 LVC members in the Twin Cities this year, each matched with a non-profit after an interview and matching process that happened … Continue reading

Share
Posted in General Information, Uncategorized, Volunteers | Comments Off

A Day in the Life of an Employment Counselor

What does it take to help individuals who recently arrived as refugees find their first jobs in Minnesota? To give you a better sense of what is involved on a day-to-day basis, we asked Refugee Services employment counselor Brittany Esau to take a few notes about some of the activities she does in an average week. As you can see, working with an individual on their employment goals is a holistic process that addresses many facets of a family’s life. -       Last week, I met with Karen family in their home to discuss employment. The husband came with a few ideas. His uncle works at a wholesale plant nursery that he knew was hiring. This week, we went to complete an application and he went through an interview. He answered the questions perfectly and was offered the job. Today I took him to complete a drug test and he will … Continue reading

Share
Posted in General Information, Refugee Employment Stories, Uncategorized | Comments Off

A New Way to Move: Bike program partnership gives wheels to Somali youth

Riding bikes in the summertime has to be one of the most quintessential childhood experiences in Minnesota, and a new partnership between Refugee Services Mankato and Key City Bikes opened up that opportunity for Somali children in Mankato. Key City Bikes is a local non-profit with a variety of programs and a strong reputation in the community. Among other things, they are known as a donation site for used bikes, which they then fix and make available to community members. They also host an annual Earn-a-Bike project  (http://keycitybike.org/get/earn-a-bike/) where 14-20 year olds have the opportunity to learn about bike maintenance and earn their own bike and accessories at the completion of the program. When there were a few openings left for their spring session, Key City Bikes reached out to Refugee Services Mankato to see if any families we knew might be interested in participating. Community Navigator Jaffer Mohamud reached … Continue reading

Share
Posted in Donations for Refugees, General Information, mankato, Uncategorized | Comments Off

More than just a place to play

Recently-arrived Somali children dashed around the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota with excitement, finding new and imaginative exhibits to explore while their mothers found a much needed space to connect and build community in a new home. One of our program goals for new families in Mankato is the facilitation of sustainable social connections for refugees, and Mankato Refugee Services staff realized that the museum would be a wonderful resource for families with children. Our staff members Nancy Altmann and Habiba Rashid reached out to museum outreach staff to see if the museum would be open to scheduling special welcome events for refugee families and received an enthusiastic welcome. As museum Community Outreach and Impact Director Sue Larsen said, “The Children’s Museum is for all families. The board and founding mothers wanted the museum to be open and welcoming for all families and we want refugee families to know that … Continue reading

Share
Posted in General Information, mankato, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Donor Profile: Mindy and Steve

We often share the stories of refugee families who we’ve welcomed, but we wanted to take an opportunity to share about a couple of the people who make our work possible—individual donors! Meet Mindy and Steve. Steve has worked in the financial services industry for 32 years and Mindy works at Lifetime Fitness. They have three young adult children and are longtime members of University Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Mindy recalls first becoming interested in refugees when her church co-sponsored a Karen refugee family through MCC Refugee Services in 2002. The family they befriended included a single mom and her 6 school age boys. The family arrived in August, and Mindy stepped in to help with a whirlwind of school registrations and orientation. Mindy recalls being awed by how well this family managed, diving right into their new life and she reflected that it gave her a different perspective on … Continue reading

Share
Posted in co-sponsors, Donations for Refugees, General Information, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Mariam’s Story: An Exercise in Persistence

When we went to greet Mariam at the airport, we were told to expect a woman who had lived through severe difficulties and who would come with nothing but the transit center-issued clothes on her back. But we learned that night that Mariam is a woman who refuses to be defined by her circumstances. She fled Somalia, leaving her 5 children with family and traveled through Indonesia, and Malaysia before coming to Minnesota as a refugee. To cope with the truly awful situations she lived in during her refugee journey, Mariam found a way to work nights so she could sleep during the day to avoid having to see many of the realities she lived in every day. By working every night, she was also able to save up some money and keep her spirits high. When we went to the airport to greet Mariam, we met a confident, self-made … Continue reading

Share
Posted in General Information, Uncategorized | Comments Off

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

Share
Posted in General Information, Refugee Employment Stories, Uncategorized | Comments Off

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

Share
Posted in General Information, Uncategorized, Volunteers | Comments Off

Refugee Services in the News!

We were recently featured in a Star Tribune article written by reporter Mila Koumpilova. Mila shadowed case manager Katia Iverson as she worked with a newly arrived Somali family for their first 90 days in Minnesota.  We were excited to have such a realistic and detailed portrait of a new refugee family’s journey shared with the public and wanted to share it here on our blog in case you have any difficulty accessing the Star Tribune’s archive of the article. Years with no nation, 90 days to become a Minnesotan Poised to take in thousands of refugees, Minnesota navigates hurdles. By Mila Koumpilova, Star Tribune • Photographs by Reneé Jones Schneider, Star Tribune AUGUST 28, 2016 Katia Iverson and Abdirahman Abdullahi have 90 days together. For Katia, the case manager, that’s the time she gets to usher newly arrived refugees into life in Minnesota. For Abdi, a father of five who landed … Continue reading

Share
Posted in General Information, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

30 Years of Hope

On the blog this week, we are sharing with you some introductory remarks that our Director, Kristine Bjerkaas Friesen, recently shared at a meeting as Refugee Services celebrates 30 years of welcoming refugees. We hope you are inspired! Writer D.L. Mayfield shares these powerful words on welcome in a world where many are afraid: “So let’s live like we are loved. Let us fixate on that, and I bet it will start to chip away at the great lies and fears we have swallowed whole. Be not afraid, the angels said, and they paved the way for a Savior who was himself a refugee–torn from his home, oppressed, beaten, ridiculed, and killed in a horrific way by the powers that be. A Christ who suffered what so many in the world suffer, who understands the temptation to fear, who loves in radical and unsafe ways, who asks nothing less of … Continue reading

Share
Posted in General Information, Uncategorized | Comments Off