Every year MCC Refugee Services provides Employment assistance to about 150 refugees and asylees. Each of those individuals hopes to become self-sufficient as soon as possible but the search for a job is not easy. Recently, we’ve found that volunteering provides refugees a great opportunity to gain helpful US work experience, practice their English skills, and give back to their new community.
In September 2011, we connected with a relatively new non-profit called Free Geek Twin Cities . Free Geek’s mission is two pronged: 1) to decrease electronic waste by recycling or refurbishing used donated computers and 2) to provide computers and computer education to people in the community who otherwise cannot access them. Our main goal for refugees who volunteer is for them to gain US work experience but the six refugees and asylees who have begun volunteering at Free Geek have gained so much more.
Afia* came to the United States in late August with her two teenage daughters. When presented with the opportunity to volunteer at Free Geek, Afia jumped in right away. Volunteers helped her learn the bus route to and from Free Geek, and now once a week Afia and her daughters help Free Geek by disassembling donated computers so they are ready to be recycled rather than become waste in a landfill.
Afia and her family are now more familiar and confident with using public transportation and through interactions with Free Geek staff and other volunteers they have a great opportunity to practice English and meet new people. Afia is now employed, but her family still volunteers to work towards earning their own refurbished computer. Having a computer at home will give her daughters flexibility in completing their schoolwork and provide Afia with tools to continue her education, explore future job opportunities, and communicate with family overseas with greater ease. When Afia explained her experience at Free Geek to us she exclaimed, “We take one computer, then open [it]… fantastic!”
We are incredibly thankful for the opportunities Free Geek Twin Cities has provided newly arrived refugees and asylees. To learn more about the job seeking process for refugees and how you can assist someone looking for employment contact Jayne Corrigan, Employment Resource Developer, at Jayne.Corrigan@mnchurches.org.
*name has been changed