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Honoring refugee contributions in Minnesota

June 15, 2023 | Every June, we honor Refugee Awareness Month and World Refugee Day. Though we do our essential work year-round, we take this time to celebrate both Minnesota’s history of welcoming refugees and the contributions that refugees make to the community.

“People who come to the United States with refugee status bring with them their talent, skills and ideas,” said Micaela Schuneman, Senior Director of Immigration and Refugee Services. “As a community, we benefit greatly from our new neighbors because of the diversity of their experiences.”

Since 1974, the International Institute of Minnesota has resettled over 25,000 refugees. We understand what it takes to start over. We know that navigating a new country’s systems can be overwhelming and challenging. And we know it’s essential to provide safety, opportunity, and hope during the critical first months after arrival — and beyond.

“The United States has long been a beacon of hope for people who are starting new lives, and at the International Institute we have the privilege of giving people the tools they need to make that fresh start,” Schuneman said.

Honoring refugee contributions

We now live in a time of record forced displacement around the world and it’s important to recognize what New Americans contribute here in Minnesota after fleeing trauma and beginning again.

New Minnesotans have enriched our neighborhoods, started businesses, filled critical jobs and made our communities stronger. They are our nurses and legislators, our friends and neighbors, our coworkers.

Our Refugee Services staff ─ including those who arrived as refugees or immigrants themselves ─ are inspired daily by the perseverance of the people they serve. We’re dedicated to supporting our clients as they begin again and work toward achieving full membership in American life.

Thanks to generous support from donors and volunteers, our staff members guide clients through their first steps in the United States. Once they’ve achieved self-sufficiency, the Institute is there for next steps, too. We’re proud to act as a partner, supporting refugees from first arrival to self-reliance, as they go on to contribute to Minnesota’s vibrancy, culture, workforce, and economy.

“By supporting the refugee resettlement program, we honor our commitment to support people who suffer as a result of conflict and war,” Schuneman said. “It is a chance for the citizens of our country to welcome displaced people and give them a chance to start fresh in a safe place.”

How you can help refugees build their lives Minnesota:
  • Organize or donate to a Housing Supply Drive: Help us prepare for new refugee arrivals by sourcing a complete set of home essentials that families need on move-in day.
  • Volunteer: Become a Refugee Mentor or Bus Buddy, or share your time and skills in one of our classrooms.
  • Donate: Financial gifts sustain our essential programs, including Refugee Services. Your support helps keep our services strong so newcomers can access the help they need to start again and work toward self-sufficiency.

Since 1919, the International Institute of Minnesota has delivered critical services and resources to help New Americans transition to their new lives in Minnesota. From language learning and job training to immigration and refugee services, the Institute offers New Americans a pathway for a strong start to a new life. Once stability is achieved, we’re there for next steps, too: from college preparation and career advancement to citizenship support and financial coaching toward home ownership.