Category Archives: Uncategorized

New staff profile: Maggie Druschel

Ever since she was a young child, Maggie remembers paying attention to the news and then going to the family atlas to look up the areas of the world that were referenced. A lifelong interest in geopolitical issues and the movement of people led her to a new position at MCC Refugee Services as the Team Manager of our Case Management team. Maggie grew up in New England and studied political science and community development at the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT. She had hopes of working in international relations, possibly with the United Nations, but during college she started to volunteer with an organization serving the Somali and Burundian communities. This exposure showed her that she could do very international work even in the US, and she began working full-time during the summers with a program serving refugee youth. The refugees she encountered had not received much integration … Continue reading

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Applying for the American Dream

Each step in the immigration process opens up new opportunities for former refugees. Far more than just getting a new id card, an upgrade in immigration status can open the door to new and better jobs, security from deportation, freedom to travel, the right to vote, study in college, and ability to apply for additional family members to join them. We are asked for our immigration status throughout our lives, but most native-born American citizens don’t realize that’s what they’re being asked when they provide their birth certificate at important junctures in life. For families who came to the US as refugees, citizenship has incredible meaning. For some, it has been a life-long dream, and for others it is a profoundly meaningful way to belong in the country that has welcomed them. Our Immigration Services team has worked with many single, widowed mothers to attain citizenship for them and their … Continue reading

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Don’t Try This at Home—Qualified assistance for immigration applications is vital

The form to apply for US Citizenship may not look overly intimidating. You can view it online easily. But what the average person filling out this 20-page form might not appreciate is the fact that every single question triggers a different provision of US immigration law and that a single error can lead to a denied application or worse, like possible deportation proceedings. This is why seeking assistance from a qualified immigration provider is so critically important.   MCC Refugee Services is one of a few agencies in the Twin Cities and Mankato that provides immigration legal assistance to former refugees applying for immigration documents. Applications for US Citizenship are just one of the many processes that MCC Refugee Services’ staff handles. The Immigration Services team also helps with certificates of citizenship for children, Green Card applications and replacements, travel documents, and family reunification petitions. Unlike a well-meaning friend, or … Continue reading

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Refugee Health in the Metro:

Mary Kelso, MCC’s Team Coordinator for Intensive Case Management, accompanied Said to a doctor appointment, knowing from previous conversations that he was dealing with a tremendous amount of back pain. When they reached the end of the appointment time, she noticed that the subject of his pain had not come up at all, and she asked permission to share about it with the doctor. Said assented, and when the doctor heard about the patient’s back pain, he asked “Why didn’t you mention this?” Said’s response was “You never asked about my back.” This simple anecdote points to the importance of the education, advocacy, and accompanying work that case managers in our Intensive Case Management (ICM) program provide.   Mary Kelso and Yassah Mulbah are full-time case managers for refugees with complex health issues in our metro office’s ICM program. They help coordinate care for and work intensively with individuals who … Continue reading

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For the Health of the Community

As in many cultures, talking about mental health and seeking treatment for mental illness carries a certain amount of stigma in the Somali community. At a recent Health Connections event in Mankato, Community Health Worker Mohamed Ibrahim wanted to have an open conversation about mental health without triggering the walls people put up when they hear terms like anxiety and depression. In a partnership with mental health counselors from Counseling Services of Southern Minnesota, a nearby agency working to serve Mankato’s diverse population, Mohamed and CSSM designed creative communication to address mental health issues. They brought visual charts and asked questions about whether or not people have trouble falling asleep at night because of worries, feel overwhelmed by daily tasks like getting the kids ready for school, or don’t feel like eating because of sadness. This approach lead to a lot of conversation among group participants, and opened the door … Continue reading

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A Passion for Health: Mohamed Ibrahim

Ten years ago, Mohamed graduated from Medical School in Somalia. He completed training with the International Committee of the Red Cross and began to work in hospitals in Somalia and East Africa. For the next six years he worked with the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders in Somalia and East Africa, helping primarily with emergency medicine and surgery for patients who had been wounded in the civil war. When deteriorating security conditions forced most non-governmental organizations to evacuate the region in 2014, Mohamed applied to join his wife and son in Minnesota. Now based in Mankato, Mohamed works for MCC Refugee Services where he is spearheading a new approach to refugee health management as one of the first Somali Community Health Workers in Mankato. He completed CHW training through a pilot program with Mayo Clinic in 2017 and completed his intern hours at the Mayo Clinic in St. Peter. … Continue reading

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A Christmas Story of Welcome

Members of the co-sponsorship team from Holy Trinity Lutheran in Minneapolis worked diligently for weeks collecting furniture, household goods, school supplies, personal hygiene items, and car seats for a Karen family of 9. They also worked to line up drivers, babysitters, shoppers, and a support system to accompany their family through the first difficult weeks in Minnesota. Literally one day before the family was to leave Thailand, MCC Refugee Services received notice that their travel had been cancelled and that there was no plan to reschedule their arrival in Minnesota. Of course, everyone’s primary concern was for the welfare of the family: what was to happen to them; where would the mother find the medical attention she needed; where would they go?  Soon, the c-osponsors’ thoughts turned to all the stored furniture and supplies and what they should do with them. They offered MCC everything they had collected allowing, us … Continue reading

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New Program Launches: Teen Tapestry

During a recent Teen Tapestry session about home, Amina showed the class a sketch of the tent that had been her family’s home during their refugee years in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. “I was a refugee too, and that’s not what my home looked like,” countered Constance, who arrived as a refugee from South Sudan. For the fourteen students representing five countries in our first Teen Tapestry class, the opening session reflecting on the idea of home led to an enlightening conversation in which they realized that even though they were all former refugees, their lives and stories represent only a small glimpse of what it means to be a refugee. Since it was launched, the Tapestry Project has brought together recently arrived refugees and community partners, helping bridge the gaps and providing education on vital topics like public safety, health care, and transportation. Up until now, the … Continue reading

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Meaningful Work: An Accountant’s Perspective on Refguees

After 12 years as MCC’s Controller, Lisa Bennett and her family are relocating to a new state. In parting, she was kind enough to share this reflection on her work with the Refugee Services program. It could be easy for an accountant to feel distant from the day-to-day work of a direct service program like Refugee Services, but Lisa has truly embraced the work and mission of welcoming refugees. She has been a passionate advocate and supporter, and we will miss her! When I first started working here at MCC almost 12 years ago, I had no idea who a refugee was. Perhaps someone who is running away from something, a term having to do with the nightmare of the Holocaust? But the relevance for today? And to my life? I knew nothing. As an accountant, my role is not working with our refugee clients directly, but making sure our … Continue reading

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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

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