Tag Archives: Minnesota Council of Churches

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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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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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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What next?

Here’s the latest news about our recent book, This Much I Can Tell You. They say that in the book business, 25% of the work is creating and publishing the book–75% is getting other people to read it. It’s hard to imagine that the bulk of this project is still yet to come, but we are excited about all of the opportunities we will have to share these inspiring stories with others in Minnesota. After our big book release celebration on June 20th, we’ve taken a bit of a break to recuperate and focus on our insanely busy summer here at MCC Refugee Services. In July alone, we welcomed over 70 individuals to Minnesota. To put that in perspective, that is about 25% of our expected number for the entire fiscal year! This book project is only a small piece of what MCC Refugee Services is all about. We are in the … Continue reading

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Introducing Henry, One of Our Gardeners and Next Year’s Garden Coordinator!

Henry, one of our gardeners has graciously let us interview him about why he is a part of this community garden project. His brother and he are both involved in our garden project and  Henry has offered to be our garden coordinator for the 2011-2012 growing season! A Brief Background about Henry: His family is originally from Monrovia, Liberia and he has lived here in Minnesota for 1 year and 2 months. He speaks three languages: English, French and Gio. And as a current student at the International Institute, Henry has plans to continue his education and attend college here locally in Minnesota. The following is the interview conducted by Katherine, one of our Community Garden Organizers with Henry (whose responses have been transcribed). Why did you want to be involved with this garden project? Henry: Because from my experience of farming, “I love making gardens…love to grow some fresh … Continue reading

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20 families. 9 countries. 2 beautiful community gardens.

On the East side of St. Paul, vegetables and communities are flourishing at two new community gardens started by refugee families and volunteers from the Minnesota Council of Churches. The “Neighbor Garden”, located at the Birmingham Woods apartments, is gardened by residents from Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Liberia, Burma and the US. The nearly Flandrau Garden is open to all neighborhood residents, and is gardened by Ethiopian, Eritrean, Iraqi, Nepalese, and Karen refugee families, as well as several Hmong-American neighbors. Community gardens are a great way for refugee families to get to know their neighbors and begin to feel safe in their new homes. “I like the garden because it helped me get to know my neighbors”, says Law Paw, a Karen gardener. “There are many Karen people living here, but we all came from different refugee camps in Thailand so we didn’t know each other. Now we work in the … Continue reading

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Calling all KIDS! Our Scarecrow and Sign Making Day

This last Saturday, I gathered in the garden with the gardening families’ children to make a scarecrow and garden sign. The day was full of energy and creativity! The kids worked together to draw our garden sign for Neighbor Garden and also made another sign depicting our garden map.   The second project we worked on was to create a scarecrow out of an old shirt, jeans, gloves, and a pillowcase (for the head). We stuffed the scarecrow with old newspapers, but at one point we ran out. In order to finish the project we decided to stuff the scarecrow with sand and pose it in a sitting down position. By far the part most enjoyed by the children was the picture taking time. Everyone wanted a picture of themselves with our new friend. And, of course, being kids there were plenty of funny photos also taken.

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Second Workday-Gardens Grow!

From the archives: June 7, 2011 Both gardens held workdays recently – the Neighbor Garden had a planting day a few weeks ago, and all the gardeners came out to plant seedlings and help a volunteer group from a local church put up a fence.   The garden looks great (more pictures soon!) The District 2/Flandrau garden also had a workday on Saturday.   We were finally able to hook up the water (just in time for this hot weather!) and we all planted tomatoes together.   We also put up some fencing that was left over from the Neighbor Garden – it wasn’t quite enough, so if anyone has extra fencing to donate we would appreciate it!  We have another workday planned for Saturday, so we’ll take pictures then! A big thank you to World Relief Minnesota, another local refugee resettlement agency that is also working on connecting refugee families with gardens.   … Continue reading

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New Roots for Refugees

From the archives: May 11, 2011 Curious about other refugee agricultural programs?  New Roots for Refugees in Kansas City has a great website! We met a few Karen farmers from New Roots in February when they came up to St. Paul for the Minnesota Food Association’s annual Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference.  Check out their website, and let us know about other refugee farming and gardening programs!

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