Opening Doors at the YMCA

Refugee Services’ Tapestry Project in Mankato brings together community partners, recently-arrived refugees, and welcoming individuals to strengthen the fabric of their community.  A variety of sessions help new arrivals find the community and resources they need. You can read more about it here.

One of the Tapestry sessions last fall serendipitously created a new community connection that helped make the YMCA an approachable and accessible space to Somali and Sudanese refugee families in the community. It all started with the Community Resource session where several community partners, including the Y, came to share with Tapestry participants about the services they offer in the community. During the conversation, refugee participants expressed interest in joining the Y, but they were concerned about how they would tour the YMCA, apply for financial aid, and use fitness equipment. There was a lot to learn and the Y does not normally have an interpreter on hand, which made it seem too intimidating to explore for these new arrivals.

Fortunately, the YMCA’s Membership Director, Kelly Agre, was the presenter at the Tapestry session, and she was enthusiastic about finding a way to make refugee families feel welcome at the Y. This spring, she worked together with the MCC Refugee Services staff to schedule an Open House at the YMCA for refugee families. Refugee Services provided an interpreter and publicized the event. Forty-three refugees attended the event and many of them applied for and received financial assistance at the event! They had a chance to tour the facility, play in the children’s area, and learn how to participate in the many programs offered by the Y. The event was so successful that they have decided to continue offering open house nights twice a year at the YMCA following Tapestry sessions.

We would like to thank the YMCA for their enthusiasm and commitment to making their facility welcoming to refugees in the community!

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