Category Archives: Volunteers

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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Gratitude and Respect

I have so much respect and admiration for church co-sponsors. That may not be surprising coming from someone who spends most of her time trying to recruit co-sponsors, but it’s true. Co-sponsorship isn’t always easy, but few truly worthwhile experiences are. It takes courage to choose to befriend a new refugee family you’ve never met.  Just the first step—meeting a family at the airport, who may not speak your language, can be outside one’s comfort zone. Besides the potential awkwardness of meeting someone new, co-sponsorship is an emotional experience.  It’s difficult to watch people you care about face barriers as they work towards becoming established. But, that vulnerability also opens you up to the possibility of being changed and receiving the gifts that refugees have to offer. It’s the relationship that leads to more welcoming and just communities. “People view hospitality as quaint and tame partly because they do not … Continue reading

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A Friend Like You

Have you or someone you’ve known ever lived abroad for an extended period of time? If so, you know that the adventure was both exciting and at times lonely.  Learning a new language, engaging foreign customs, and attempting to navigate complex city transportation can be intimidating.  Living with a host family or becoming friends with a local can make all the difference in bolstering your courage to try new things.  Refugees who come to live in Minnesota face similar situations.  Four families are coming to Minnesota in the next month who are in need of a friend like you.  Please consider becoming a Volunteer Befriender for one of these families. The need is immediate and specific. The first week of December a Karen father and his 18 year old son are arriving and will be living in St. Paul.  The father was a farmer in Burma before his family fled … Continue reading

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Befriending Paw Moo: A Guest Volunteer Post

Refugee resettlement simply would not be possible without the support of dedicated volunteers like Pang. Herself an immigrant, Pang was looking for a way to give back to the community by helping others adjust to life in Minnesota. Read on to hear the heartwarming story of the friendship that has developed between Pang and her new refugee friend, Paw Moo*. My name is Pang and I’m a Befriender to Paw Moo. Paw Moo and I have been working together to help her have an easier time adjusting to her new life here in Minnesota for about one month now. I visit her twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays. Paw Moo lives with her son in a one bedroom apartment. On my first meeting with Paw Moo, I observed that she is very talkative and funny. Paw Moo said that she likes to make new friends and meet new people … Continue reading

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Help Families Take Root in Minnesota

Taking Root is gearing up for a new fall season! As a member of a Taking Root team you have an exciting chance to develop a relationship with a new refugee family from the moment they arrive in Minnesota. We’ve learned through experience that a diverse team of people committed to coming alongside a family greatly increases their ability to transition to self-sufficiency. We invite you to become a part of this experience! As a Taking Root team member you get an intimate look into the resettlement process as you journey with a refugee family for their first four months in Minnesota. In the first few weeks team members provide a warm welcome by setting up the apartment, greeting the family at the airport, and visiting the family to see how they are adjusting to their new home. Friendships are formed as volunteers practice English while learning some of the … Continue reading

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Guest post: Employment Services Intern

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in MCC’s offices? Our current Employment Services Intern, Hannah, shares her experience with Refugee Services. “I began my internship at MCC in early July and hit the ground running. The staff was so welcoming and quick to accept me as a member of their team. I have been impressed with the patience of the staff, the excellent relationships they develop with the refugees they serve, and their extensive knowledge of Twin Cities employment networks and community resources. It is a privilege to work with them and learn from them. I learn something new every day. A typical day for me is – well there is no typical day. In only my second week on the job, I helped teach a job readiness class which included basic explanations of the job search process and helps them navigate the paperwork that comes with … Continue reading

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Welcoming the New VISTAs

Each summer, MCC Refugee Services says Goodbye to one group of AmeriCorps VISTAs and Hello to another. In July we welcomed three new VISTAs to the team: Green Bouzard, Jayne Corrigan, and Jennifer Pins. Three of last year’s VISTAs have moved on to exciting new opportunities, and Naomi Thorson Krueger is staying on at MCC to serve as VISTA Leader.   So what exactly is a VISTA? VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America. It’s a program of AmeriCorps, which is a national volunteer service program spanning a huge variety of nonprofit fields across the country. VISTAs are primarily “capacity builders” who work behind the scenes to help an organization grow its programs, services, and networks. Green Bouzard, the Refugee Housing and Opportunities Resource Coordinator graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in Sociology/Anthropology and Religion. Green speaks Spanish—she studied abroad in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.  She … Continue reading

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