Category Archives: General Information

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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Q&A with a Case Manager

Here at MCC Refugee Services we work with a wonderful team of dedicated staff and volunteers. To give you the inside scoop on what it’s like to work in our office we sat down with one of our Resettlement Case Managers, Abdirizak. For the past six years, Abdirizak has drawn upon his personal experience as a Somali refugee to welcome new refugees to Minnesota. What does a Resettlement Case Manager do? Oh I do a lot! [Laughs] I do intake when they come to United States, meet at the airport sometimes, greet them, and schedule appointment to see them in the office. What happens during intake? I ask them how their health situation is. That’s the number one [priority]. They’ve been living in the refugee camp a long time and maybe they don’t have access to medical treatment. Sometimes they have different weather, different culture, different food and they get … Continue reading

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St. Paul: A New Home for the Karen

St. Paul, Minnesota is home to the largest concentration of Karen people in the country, but who are the Karen? (The name is pronounced “kah-REN”.) The Karen are an ethnic minority from Burma, though the military government changed the name to Myanmar. Because most refugees in MN still refer to the country as Burma, we do too. The Karen community in Minnesota is the largest outside of Southeast Asia. Since 2004 approximately 2,000 Karen people have resettled here. They’ve come to escape persecution and torture resulting from a half-century long civil war with the Burmese military government. After fleeing through the mountainous jungles of Burma past the border into Thailand, the Karen found relief in refugee camps. Many families lived there for a decade or two before receiving the opportunity to resettle in another country. Approximately 1 million refugees are still living in Thai refugee camps. The Karen community in … Continue reading

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