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Volunteer Spotlight

Kathy: Housing Volunteer

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Housing Volunteer Turns Houses into Homes

April 23, 2024 | We’re highlighting the impressive work of our volunteers all month long in honor of Global Volunteer Month and Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 21-27. Learn more in this question and answer series about what inspires and motivates Kathy, a long-time housing volunteer who regularly helps set-up homes for newly-arriving refugee families.

A woman cleaning a stairway

1) You could share your valuable time and skills with many deserving non-profits. Why do you choose to donate your time to the International Institute of Minnesota?

I grew up in Latin America and know how impactful a welcoming environment can be when needing to relocate to a new country, especially as a refugee. The staff are phenomenal and the programming is excellent. The International Institute of Minnesota (IIMN) is a vibrant place that has continued to live its values for over 100 years.

2) What kind of volunteering do you do with us?

I volunteer for the housing program. I collect donations from the community, I organize and store items in the donation storage room, I pull items for home set-ups, and my daughter and I are on the home set-up team.

3) Can you share a memory of a volunteer moment that helped make this work rewarding for you?

A few months ago we set up a home for a large family from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three young adults from the family were already here and they worked side-by-side with the volunteers to set up the home they’d be living in with the rest of their family, who were arriving shortly. They were so enthusiastic and excited to decide what should go where and learn how to do things like run the vacuum cleaner. We had a lot of fun together even with the language barrier.

This work is important to me because I want refugees to feel very welcomed to Minnesota when they arrive.

4) Why is this work important to you? What keeps you coming back as a volunteer?

This work is important to me because I want refugees to feel very welcomed to Minnesota when they arrive. It is a very stressful and scary experience needing to resettle into a new country, often not speaking English. I want clients to know right from the moment they open the door to their new home that we are glad they’re here.

I keep coming back because the team work with other volunteers and staff is very gratifying. It is instant gratification to see an apartment/home go from bare to “turn-key” ready, even having food in the fridge and treats on the table. I also value the environmental impact of working with my neighbors to gather housing items and small furniture items that can be used in home set-ups, lessening items going into the waste stream.

5) What kind of impact do you hope your volunteer work has?

I hope IIMN clients feel that Minnesota is a place they can call home, and I hope my neighbors feel gratified that the housing items they no longer need are getting a new life and are appreciated.

Thank you to Kathy for sharing her story and to all our volunteers for the work that helps New Americans become self-sufficient and reach their dreams.

Read More Volunteer Stories

Become a Volunteer

From virtual to in-person opportunities, we have a variety of chances for individuals and groups to volunteer at the International Institute of Minnesota. Your time and talents are an essential part of our success in welcoming New Americans to Minnesota.

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