New Initiatives Aim to Create Welcome for Refugees in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS—At a time when our nation’s proud tradition of welcoming refugees is continually at risk of being tarnished, several innovative Minnesota-based organizations have received funding for nine local projects to serve the local refugee population. The initiatives include new networking and training opportunities for refugees, establishing community gardens, and forums for telling the stories of refugees through art.

“Now more than ever, supporting local organizations that have fresh ideas for sharing information about refugees with their neighbors is critical,” said Melanie Nezer, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at HIAS. “The projects in Minnesota will help dispel the misinformation about refugees that is so prevalent these days and we hope that successful projects will be replicated in communities across the country.”

The Linking Communities (TLC) Project: Creating Welcome for Refugees, now in its third year, is a collaborative project of the national refugee resettlement agencies* that is coordinated by HIAS. TLC grew out of a HIAS report recommendation to build capacity at the local and national levels to generate and maintain broad-based commitment to refugee resettlement in local communities throughout the United States.

The diverse and effective projects to improve the environment for refugees in Minnesota will help to combat the presidential candidates, elected officials and others seeking to pause or completely halt the resettlement of refugees into the United States, and working to send a message that refugees are not welcome in their states.

Projects in Minnesota funded by the TLC Project partners will receive between $3,000 and $5,000


Funded initiatives in Minnesota:

African Development Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota will host a series of Community Conversations to provide African refugees and immigrants in the Twin Cities the opportunity to meet with community members, business leaders, and government officials and share their experiences, challenges, aspirations, and needs.

Asian Economic Development Association in St. Paul, Minnesota will create a public art project as part of MANIFEST: Pop-Up Arts and Culture, an art and cultural showcase bringing visibility to multi-generational refugee and immigrant narratives around resettlement experiences through art, culture, food, facilitated conversation, and community outreach.

Lake McCarrons Neighborhood Association-working closely with The Advocates for Human Rights, the City of Roseville Community Engagement Commission, and the Karen Organization of Minnesota-will host a series of conversations in Roseville, Minnesota to bring together the Karen refugee community with neighbors and government officials to build relationships, work across cultural barriers, and increase welcome for the Karen population in Roseville and beyond.

Labor Education Service, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities will work in St. Cloud, MN- with the East Central Area Labor Council, Minnesota AFL-CIO and St. Cloud State student organizations- to conduct a series of trainings for community members, students and others who want to share information with their neighbors and make St. Cloud a safe and welcoming community for refugees.

The Minnesota Council of Churches will work throughout the state to showcase a series of portraits and first-person narratives of refugees in Minnesota.  The project will include a traveling photo exhibit in Mankato and St. Cloud, public art installations, a multimedia web application, and a book of portraits and stories. 

The English Learning Center-a program of Our Saviour’s Community Services-will launch a Volunteer Advocacy Initiative, offering monthly training sessions for volunteers who wish to increase welcome for refugees through community outreach and education, guest speakers, and social media.  ELC will produce a series of infographics highlighting the stories of refugees as an outreach tool.

Somali Action Alliance Education Fund will host a series of community forums in Minneapolis, St. Cloud, and Willmar focused on educating Minnesotans about the Somali experience in the state, and creating a new narrative about the ways in which the Somali community contributes to building a more vibrant Minnesota.

The International Institute of Minnesota-in collaboration with Galilee Lutheran Church and Rice Street Community Garden-will establish a community garden that will offer half its slots to refugees and other new Americans, allowing communities to come together through gardening.  Events will include refugee demonstrations of garden techniques and social gatherings to unite refugee communities with the broader community.

Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota will work together with the Afro American Development Association to publish a series of stories highlighting the journeys of refugees resettled in the greater Moorhead, Minnesota area.  These stories will be disseminated to the public through print and social media. 


*TLC Project partners:

HIAS; Center for Applied LinguisticsChurch World Service; Episcopal Migration MinistriesLutheran Immigration and Refugee Services; the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, working closely with Welcoming America and Refugee Council USA.


For more information about TLC or the grantees, please visit

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