MCC Refugee Services has been fortunate for the past 6 years to host 18 members of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. This year the VISTAs impacted the lives of more than 500 refugees by coordinating over $66,000 in in-kind and financial donations for refugees. These projects have included housing, employment, mental health and community outreach. Read on to hear which projects each VISTA enjoyed most during their year at MCC:
Mina: Healing Resources Assistant
“I have been most excited about the surveys with psychologists that I have been conducting along with Sue Johnston, MSW, LICSW. We have been calling all of the mental health providers in Minnesota that health insurance providers have told us are competent to provide diagnostic assessments cross-culturally. It has been interesting and concerning to talk to so many psychologists with so many different approaches to testing and working with interpreters. I am looking forward to compiling all of the information into a report, and hopefully, using the information to demonstrate a need for a standard protocol for psychologists to use in this area.”
In addition to helping coordinate our Refugee Mental Health Trainings Mina launched our second refugee women’s knitting group and applied for & received a $20,000 grant for MCC to expand our knitting groups as a further means of social connection and healing for refugee women.
Green: Refugee Housing Opportunity & Resource Coordinator
“I am most excited about the partnership I was able to help develop between Urban Homeworks and MCC Refugee Services. I am hopeful that that partnership may be strengthened and deepened with continued collaboration in the months to come.” Additionally, Green connected with dozens of landlords, arranged apartment set-ups, coordinated donations, hosted Housing Walk-in Hours, and developed new resources for refugees to better understand US housing.
Jayne: Employment Resource Developer
Throughout the year Jayne established exciting new partnerships with Free Geek Twin Cities and Cycles for Change. After identifying a need for refugees to gain US work experience Jayne connected with Free Geek which allows volunteers to assist in recycling computers while earning points towards taking home a free computer. Jayne’s favorite project has been connecting with Cycles for Change who loaned 25 bikes to refugees and asylees through their Community Partner Bike Library program. Additionally Jayne oversaw our Job Readiness Mentor program, led meetings with our Employer Advisory Committee, and secured the Metro Transit Job Seeker discount which allows us to purchase bus cards at 50% discount for people in our Employment Services. This discount allows MCC to save $8,500 per year!
Jennifer: Outreach Specialist
“As one who likes processes and figuring out how to maximize impact I have really enjoyed building sustainability in our volunteer program. From standardizing volunteer trainings to coordinating ongoing support for volunteers it has been great to see these changes create more abundant support for our refugee families. Additionally I’ve had the privilege of speaking alongside members of our Refugee Speakers Bureau as together we educate the community about the refugee experience. Securing a grant for $10,000 now allows us to give an honorarium for every speaking engagement, a small token of gratitude to these amazing community educators.”
We are grateful to our VISTAs for strengthening the services of MCC Refugee Services and wish them the best on their new adventures! MCC Refugee Services is also pleased to welcome 2 new VISTA members serving in Mankato.