Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Staff Intro: Mary

MCC Refugee Services is excited to welcome Mary Kelso to the role of Refugee Program Specialist: Refugee Health! Mary studied Psychology and English at Hope College in Holland, MI before becoming a refugee resettlement case manager at Lutheran Social Services in Minnesota. She then received a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Michigan where she worked as a resettlement case manager in Ann Arbor. During that time, she also facilitated a group for high school refugee girls who were new to the US. Last summer, she had the opportunity to work with refugees in Kampala, Uganda, working with a mental health and counseling program and grant-writing. She has also traveled to the Arizona/Mexico border to learn about immigration policy and social justice work. Away from work, Mary loves to travel, peruse bookstores, practice yoga, hike & bike, garden, craft. Having grown up along Lake Superior in Michigan’s … Continue reading

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New Staff Profile: Jenna

We are excited to welcome our new AmeriCorps Member, Jenna Binsfeld! Jenna is serving as our Intensive Community Orientation AmeriCorps Member and she will be taking over the new arrivals orientation program. Jenna recently graduated from Boston University with majors in International Relations and Economics. In addition to these courses, she pursued the study of the Arabic language and service work with refugees, culminating in a semester abroad in Jordan volunteering with refugees from throughout the Middle East and Africa. She hopes to gain further knowledge of her diverse home community, and provide a platform for increased understanding and cultural fusion in the Twin Cities. Jenna is originally from the Twin Cities and would love to eventually return to the Middle East and continue studying Arabic. If you volunteer with our ICO classes or are interested in connecting with that program, we hope you’ll have the chance to meet Jenna … Continue reading

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Welcoming Strangers

Members of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul co-sponsored a refugee family from Afghanistan early this spring. Knowing that the Afghan refugee community in Minnesota is very small, we invited them and the family they co-sponsored to help welcome another Afghan refugee family that arrived this summer. One of their members, Jessica Jones, shared this beautiful reflection on the experience of going to the airport a second time and we wanted to share it with you. I pulled up to the skyway connecting the gold ramp to the airport ticketing area. “Okay, Amir, can you take the kids into the bathroom and I’ll go park the car?” I said, watching the cars queue up behind me as I blocked a lane of traffic. “And, Haley, hold Amir’s hand and stay together!” As I jumped back into the car and watched them make their way down the skyway – my daughter, … Continue reading

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Refugees in the Blogosphere

Just as there are great bloggers on every subject from cooking to computer repair, there are some very talented writers sharing their thoughts about refugees. We wanted to share a couple favorites with you and give you a taste of what you’ll see if you explore their blogs. The first two feature strong Minnesota connections! DL Mayfield: Mayfield is a well-known Christian author who writes and blogs about a variety of topics. Living and volunteering with refugees has deeply formed her sense of the world and Mayfield was deeply involved with refugee communities in the Twin Cities for a number of years. Perusing her blog or following her on Facebook, you are sure to find honest writings that will challenge the way you think about refugees. In January of this year, she shared 10 ways that you can practically help to welcome refugees. It’s an incredible article with lots of … Continue reading

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A Co-sponsor’s Story

In February of 2017, the Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (MVUUF) welcomed a Somali family of 5 and journaled about their experience each time they met with the family. With their permission, we’re sharing some excerpts here. It paints such a real and touching picture of one family’s adjustment to life in the US and the relationship they formed with their American helpers. We’ve drawn out a few stories that really spotlight the epiphany moments where volunteers and family members learned about the different lenses through which they view the world. February 7: Welcoming the Family The family arrived! It has been a busy week for them and all the volunteers who helped set up their apartment. The family is a widow and her 4 children ages 18-24. They came from Egypt where they lived since leaving Somalia in 2009. They were part of a refugee community in Cairo. The … Continue reading

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Never Settle: One Story of Finding Better Ways to Serve New Arrivals

This reflection comes from Francesca Sifferlin, our Refugee AmeriCorps member this year. She took over our already robust new arrivals orientation class, looking for ways to improve the curriculum and make it more accessible to new arrivals. As my year of service as a Refugee AmeriCorps member at MCC comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on what we have accomplished. The creation and launch of our In-Home Intensive Cultural Orientation (ICO) classes has been a rewarding highlight. MCC’s Intensive Cultural Orientation (ICO) workshops empower newly arrived refugees by providing them with the education, skills, and resources they need to succeed and attain self-sufficiency in Minnesota. Typically, students attend a 3-week classroom-based workshop that covers the topics of transportation, safety, health, education, immigration, financial literacy, renter’s education, home orientation, and job readiness. In order to expand the accessibility of these workshops and ensure everyone can participate, we developed a version … Continue reading

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Life Before I Was a Refugee

Recently, an organization called the World Wide Tribe produced a short video called, quite simply, “Life Before I Was a Refugee.” It’s an incredibly moving and powerful piece featuring interviews with Afghan, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees living in a camp in Greece. Please do yourself a favor and spend two minutes watching it (link below)! Each of the interviewees speaks in English, making it possible to connect even more immediately with these individuals who share about their beautiful cities before war destroyed them, the jobs they enjoyed, the college degrees they were pursuing, and the happiness of being together with family and neighbors. Life Before I Was a Refugee Media coverage makes it easy to forget that refugees are anything other than a mass of humanity living in poverty-stricken camps, with no past and no future. But it’s not true. Each refugee is an individual, a person, and they have … Continue reading

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Reflections from the other side:

Have you ever stopped to wonder what refugees thought America would be like? Many refugees and immigrants have heard the stereotypical stories about streets paved in gold and gleaming skyscrapers, but that only scratches the surface of what refugees imagined their new home might be like. In our recent Intensive Cultural Orientation classes, we took a few moments to ask refugees what they thought America would be like, and how those perceptions have changed now that they are here. We share a few of those insightful reflections here, noting where each individual came from and how long ago they arrived in the US. Culture and daily life: “We thought life might be easy in the U.S., but it’s been challenging. I’ve learned that life can be difficult wherever you go. I’ve learned that Americans also have difficulties, that they also have troubles. Yet, I’ve also learned that with support and … Continue reading

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Refugees at Work

MCC Refugee Services provides a rich variety of services to refugees, both those who are new arrivals and those who have lived in Minnesota for some time. One of our core services is employment counseling to help new refugees find their first job in the United States and learn the skills they need to thrive in the workplace. Our employment counselors shared this story of how a job placement led to a new friendship as well: Chantal and Renuka might seem an unlikely pair. Chantal is a young, single woman from Congo and Renuka is a Nepali single mom with a young daughter. They live in the same St. Paul apartment building, and both received employment assistance from MCC Refugee Services. Working with their employment counselors at Refugee Services, they both found jobs at the same company in the Southwest metro. Their job counselors realized that they lived in the same building, so … Continue reading

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Abdi’s Incredible Day

Nathan, one of our employment counselors, had a very typical day last month. After a morning spent working in the office, he took Abdi, a recently-arrived Somali refugee, to a job interview. On the drive home, Abdi began to tell Nathan about his day, which had been nothing short of extraordinary. At about 3 am, his wife Zainab knew that she was in active labor and needed to head to the hospital to deliver her first baby. Abdi called 911 for an ambulance to bring her to the hospital. He told the dispatcher: “My wife is having baby.” They asked him: “Is she having contractions?” With his limited English and the early morning excitement, he heard “construction” instead of “contractions”. Confused, he responded: “What? My wife is not a building! She does not work construction.” The dispatcher and Abdi continued their conversation for several minutes, trying to sort through the … Continue reading

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