Category Archives: General Information

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

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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

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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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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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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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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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