Tag Archives: refugee resettlement

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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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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Second Groundbreaking

From the archives: May 10, 2011 We broke ground at the second (yet to be named) community garden in District 2 this Saturday.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and many refugee families and neighbors came out to dig up the grass and turn a vacant lot into a community garden! Several of the gardeners were farmers in their home countries (including Burma, Iraq and Ethiopia), and they got their plots ready and planted in record time before helping their neighbors dig.  It was a great day to be working outside together, enjoying the spring and the promise of fresh veggies. In addition to the families, we had several great volunteers come out to help dig!  Volunteer groups came from the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP) and a Taking Root, an interfaith refugee sponsorship program through the Minnesota Council of Churches.   The Taking Root group is sponsoring a recently … Continue reading

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