Here at MCC Refugee Services we work with a wonderful team of dedicated staff and volunteers. To give you the inside scoop on what it’s like to work in our office we sat down with one of our Resettlement Case Managers, Abdirizak. For the past six years, Abdirizak has drawn upon his personal experience as a Somali refugee to welcome new refugees to Minnesota.
What does a Resettlement Case Manager do?
Oh I do a lot! [Laughs] I do intake when they come to United States, meet at the airport sometimes, greet them, and schedule appointment to see them in the office.
What happens during intake?
I ask them how their health situation is. That’s the number one [priority]. They’ve been living in the refugee camp a long time and maybe they don’t have access to medical treatment. Sometimes they have different weather, different culture, different food and they get sick within 24 hours [of arrival]. Then if they say no health problems I check the [IOM] bag and make sure they have the documents. You have to explain what we do, who I am. After that we talk about basic needs. We give legal responsibilities like housing, how to communicate with the landlord. We complete some applications for government assistance and for Social Security documentation. Then I refer for MCC internal classes like NAREW (New Arrival Resource Empowerment Workshop), Job Readiness, and Financial Literacy. It’s a lot of things, it’s not easy.
Since the resettlement period is only 90 days, what is your goal for families when you finish working with them after 90 days?
My goal is for them to become self-sufficient. [I want] to encourage them, to give them power to become a self-sufficient refugee. My job is to refer to [community resources to] become self sufficient, like to employment counselors, ESL, etc.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
To see many new faces every day. Learn different cultures, experience life from a refugee, and to tell me their stories. Example, I met one father and before he reached the United States to resettle he visited 22 countries! I also have a single guy, he said, “I lost both of my parents, but I don’t want to lose one thing- my education.”
What do you think is the biggest challenge refugees face?
Maybe they have high expectations. They have a big dream, but what they see in Africa and when they come here is different. They’re thinking maybe they’re going to paradise—it’s not that. And also the language barrier sometimes.
Speaking of language, what is one Somali word you want our readers to learn?
Soo dhawow (so dah woah). It means “welcome.” And also “mahad sanid” means “thanks.”
Do you have any success stories you’d like to share?
5 years ago I met a family from Vietnam. They don’t speak English, both sisters and mom and dad. I meet them after 5 years and she (the daughter) come to me and she greet me and I said, “Who’s this person I recognize?” I ask her what she’s doing and she said she goes to the U of M and she told me she was filing for her citizenship. She succeeded when she came to United States. Some of them they get their own business. Some of them they go to school and they get a degree. Children grow up and learn English.
When they succeed, I’m happy—when they become self sufficient. It’s not an easy job, but every day, every hour, every second you change someone’s life. No matter where we are.