This story by Heidi Sampson was originally published on the SSND Central Pacific site. You can find the original story here.
Sister Richarde Marie Wolf, SSND, coordinator of the Refugee Outreach Program, had a revelation when she spent a day at Minnesota State University, Mankato, for the annual Campus and Community Fair. At the event, students explore opportunities for part-time jobs, and volunteer opportunities within the community. For Sister Richarde Marie, the event magnified the spirit of youth and their willingness to create change, to bring out their gifts in service to the communities around them.
The Refugee Outreach Program is an extension of the Central Pacific Province's Good Counsel Learning Center in Mankato, Minn. In 1967, the Good Counsel Learning Center was established by the School Sisters of Notre Dame to address the unmet educational needs of children, youth and adults.
In 2012, when the Mankato area saw a significant rise in enrollment of refugee women requesting tutoring services – to address their educational and employment needs – the Good Counsel Learning Center responded to the need. For refugee women, a particular difficulty had been in obtaining access to education while lacking a support system to assist in caring for young children. In many cases, transportation was also an issue, so a tutoring service that went into the homes of students would be essential to the program’s success.
“We’ve worked primarily with Sudanese and Somali women,” said Sister Richarde Marie. “Many of these women are raising their children alone. So this program makes a difference in the lives of the women we serve.”
Sister Richarde Marie came to the Good Counsel Learning Center in November of 2015, after teaching elementary school students for 20 years and serving as a principal for 27 years. In July 2016, Sister Richarde Marie accepted the role as the refugee outreach coordinator.
Currently, the Refugee Outreach Program has eight tutors and ten women receiving services. Sister Richarde Marie makes connections between those seeking education and matching those possible students with tutors, who volunteer to go into the home to teach one hour a day, twice a week.
“We get to know our students,” says Sister Richarde Marie. “We are able to witness the beauty of their culture while empowering them to reach their goals. I believe the future of this program will be the youth of refugees and immigrants. Like SSNDs, the youth of the immigrants we help are in a unique position to assist in teaching, empowering and creating change for their own cultures.”