After two and a half years with Mankato Refugee Services, our Program Director, Margo, will be stepping down from her position. As the second program director to lead our Mankato team, Margo has worked very hard to expand the program and develop staff capacity.
This January, Mohamed Ibrahim, MCC’s former Community Health Worker, visited Mariam and her family to talk about her son’s asthma. While there, he noticed that Said (age 6) was hiding his hands behind his back. When Mohamed asked him why, he saw immediately that Said had severe frostbite. It turned out that Said had spent the last few frigid days playing outside in the snow, even though he’d lost his gloves. No one in Mariam’s family had heard of frostbite before and they were concerned by the painful state of Said’s hands.
Eight years ago, Lah Lah came to Minnesota as a 12 year-old refugee with her family and was resettled by MCC Refugee Services. Today, she’s working as a Case Aide in our resettlement program, helping new families as they arrive to Minnesota.
Refugees don’t stay refugees forever. Hassan Ibrahim’s life provides a clear illustration.
Hassan was only 4 years old when he fled his home in Somalia at the outbreak of the civil war in 1991. He grew up in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, where he completed high school and a university education, as well as marrying and starting a family with his wife.
Ever since she was a young child, Maggie remembers paying attention to the news and then going to the family atlas to look up the areas of the world that were referenced. A lifelong interest in geopolitical issues and the movement of people led her to a new position at MCC Refugee Services as the Team Manager of our Case Management team.
Each step in the immigration process opens up new opportunities for former refugees. Far more than just getting a new id card, an upgrade in immigration status can open the door to new and better jobs, security from deportation, freedom to travel, the right to vote, study in college, and ability to apply for additional family members to join them. We are asked for our immigration status throughout our lives, but most native-born American citizens don’t realize that’s what they’re being asked when they provide their birth certificate at important junctures in life.
The form to apply for US Citizenship may not look overly intimidating. You can view it online easily. But what the average person filling out this 20-page form might not appreciate is the fact that every single question triggers a different provision of US immigration law and that a single error can lead to a denied application or worse, like possible deportation proceedings. This is why seeking assistance from a qualified immigration provider is so critically important.
Mary Kelso, MCC’s Team Coordinator for Intensive Case Management, accompanied Said to a doctor appointment, knowing from previous conversations that he was dealing with a tremendous amount of back pain. When they reached the end of the appointment time, she noticed that the subject of his pain had not come up at all, and she asked permission to share about it with the doctor.
As in many cultures, talking about mental health and seeking treatment for mental illness carries a certain amount of stigma in the Somali community. At a recent Health Connections event in Mankato, Community Health Worker Mohamed Ibrahim wanted to have an open conversation about mental health without triggering the walls people put up when they hear terms like anxiety and depression.
Ten years ago, Mohamed graduated from Medical School in Somalia. He completed training with the International Committee of the Red Cross and began to work in hospitals in Somalia and East Africa. For the next six years he worked with the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders in Somalia and East Africa, helping primarily with emergency medicine and surgery for patients who had been wounded in the civil war. When deteriorating security conditions forced most non-governmental organizations to evacuate the region in 2014, Mohamed applied to join his wife and son in Minnesota.