Category Archives: Volunteers

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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Volunteer Profile: Aleisha

Do you remember when news of the Syrian refugee crisis dominated the news a few years ago? Refugee Services volunteer Aleisha does. She had recently left her work with victims of domestic violence to stay home with her son and was looking for a way to make a difference in her corner of the world. The news about refugee families fleeing resonated deeply with her and she was determined to do something. Traveling overseas to help wasn’t a possibility for her, so Aleisha found a way to be involved locally through MCC Refugee Services. One of Aleisha’s first volunteer experiences was helping set up the apartment for a newly arriving family. She remembers the experience with a sense of awe. Even though she never met them, she still thinks about the grandmother and her two grandchildren who made that apartment home. Aleisha loved putting away dishes and making beds, knowing … Continue reading

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The Chance of a Lifetime

We recently welcomed Tesfa, a single Ethiopian man who came without any family ties in Minnesota. Rather than securing long-term housing for him right away, we wanted to make sure he didn’t already have family or friends in the area that he might want to live with. Arrive Ministries, another local resettlement agency, knew of a host family that was happy to host Tesfa for his first weeks in Minnesota, and the arrangement worked out beautifully. On Tesfa’s first weekend here, we gave a volunteer the opportunity to bring Tesfa to church to help him make some community connections. It was an impactful experience for Tesfa and the volunteer, and our longtime volunteer Charlie Brown was kind enough to share the following reflection on his experience. It was a chance of a lifetime to be able to attend the Ethiopian Orthodox Church with Tesfa. Tesfa is a very social person … Continue reading

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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

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Volunteer Spotlight

Pete Kallal

Volunteers are so essential to the work we do at Refugee Services. Since every volunteer is so unique and brings their own perspective to the work of welcoming new refugees, we wanted to introduce you to one volunteer this month to give you just a peek! Meet Pete. Pete Kallal started volunteering with Refugee Services in 2013 after teaching 4th and 5th grade for 35 years. He began as a Bridging appointment volunteer, but quickly found his niche teaching Jump Start classes. (Jump Start is a 3 week class that introduces brand new arrivals to key skills for life in America, like bus riding, financial literacy, job seeking, and safety). What inspired you to get started? Thee generations ago, my great grandparents immigrated from the Czech Republic. We are all immigrants (except Native Americans) at some point. As a teacher, I used to do research on students’ last names to … 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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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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Knit one, Purl two…Refugee women knit and heal

Zahara Said, Knitting group, 6-28-12-- RELEASE

In a supportive, welcoming space, ten women meet weekly and over tea and knitting, but this isn’t just any knitting circle. Bringing together newly arrived refugees and church volunteers, women knit, but they also practice yoga and talk about what is happening in their lives. The women make new friendships, learn from each other’s experiences, and help each other. Mental health professionals and social service providers also attend on occasion to make services available in an informal setting through trusted connections. In 2008, MCC Refugee Services convened a Refugee Healing Resources Workgroup to explore how to better meet the mental health needs of refugees. The workgroup observed a number of gaps in services and confirmed MCC’s fear that connecting refugees to mainstream mental health services can be difficult. This working group gave rise to the idea for a refugee knitting collective. With the help of volunteers, the Knitting Collective provides … 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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