Category Archives: Volunteers

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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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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Design With Purpose: First round a success!

What would it feel like to walk into an apartment in a new country after days of travel—only to find it empty? In March and April, two different student groups made sure that this didn’t happen when they took up the “Design With Purpose” Challenge, collecting items and furnishing a total of 3 apartments for newly arriving refugee families in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Design With Purpose is an opportunity for groups to volunteer and set up apartments for newly arriving refugees. Refugees have escaped incredible circumstances to create a new life in Minnesota. Often, they’ve lived in a refugee camp for years, or even decades. When they step off the plane in Minnesota, not only are they exhausted from a long trip, they’re entering a completely foreign environment. Walking into a lovingly furnished apartment makes families feel like they’ve finally arrived somewhere safe. After seeing how much love and … Continue reading

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Welcoming Mu Lah’s Family: A Guest Volunteer Post

This spring 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 months 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 … Continue reading

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Computer Donation Program Endures

If you have ever searched for a job in the United States you know how long and exhausting the process can be. You probably used a computer to search for jobs, create your resume, write a cover letter, and possibly to fill out online job applications. In fact, a computer could arguably be one of the most important tools in your job search. Can you imagine how different the process might be if you had never used a computer before and didn’t have one of your own to use? For refugees coming to America this is often the case. Not having a computer at home can greatly slow down the job-seeking process and make it more difficult to become computer literate. Thanks to RenovoData Services and their CEO Frank Gustafson, 12 refugee families enrolled in MCC Employment Services will receive their own computer for their home! MCC Refugee Services formerly … Continue reading

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