Our Support for the Community Continues
Since 2014, KOM has had a second office in Marshall, Minnesota, to serve the growing population of refugees from Burma who are moving to the area for job opportunities. When we opened our office, there were about 150 Karen people working in Marshall, but only about 20 of their families had moved there due to limited support systems. Now about 700 Karen people are living in Marshall, including several families who have bought homes and intend to stay in the community.
Despite this growth, we have had challenges in finding stable funding to support our staff and clients in Marshall. At the end of 2018, we determined that we would not be able to financially sustain this office moving forward. KOM’s office in Marshall will close as of January 31, 2019.
“We are also inspired by Karen individuals in Marshall who have stepped into leadership roles in schools, the workforce, and community organizing.”
KOM’s co-executive directors, Eh Tah Khu and Alexis Walstad, traveled to Marshall in early January to meet with our staff and community partners. We are impressed with how much the community has changed in the past four years as a result of partnerships between our staff, Karen residents, and numerous local agencies. Whereas few people in Marshall had previous knowledge of the Karen, we now find eager supporters in every sector of government, business, and nonprofits who are excited to have Karen people in their city and want to know how they can work with them. We were glad to be able to meet with many of these partners during our visit, and we know that they will uphold our mission to ensure that refugees from Burma can participate fully in all areas of society. We are also inspired by Karen individuals in Marshall who have stepped into leadership roles in schools, the workforce, and community organizing. We will continue to support them in any way that we can in advancing their leadership in Southwest Minnesota.
We would like to thank the Otto Bremer Trust, who has been the primary supporter of this office in the past four years, as well as the Southwest Initiative Foundation, United Way of Southwest Minnesota, Marshall Community Foundation, and Headwaters Foundation for their financial support. We would also like to extend our deepest thanks to United Community Action Partnership for offering us in-kind office space and to their staff who are always ready to assist us in any way possible.
“Ron said, ‘I think the resilience of the Karen, along with the willingness of the Marshall community, can solve a lot of challenges.'”
Most of all, we would like to thank our Marshall Program Manager, Ron Skjong, and Case Manager, Muhser Hser, for their dedication to KOM and the Karen community in Marshall over the past four years. Their passion for connecting people and promoting diversity has benefited not only Karen refugees but the city and the region as a whole.
Program Manager Ron Skjong said that he is encouraged by the conversations that have been started between people in all sectors who share a commitment to welcoming immigrants and refugees. We are confident that they will continue to carry out that vision in partnership with the local Karen community. Ron said, “I think the resilience of the Karen, along with the willingness of the Marshall community, can solve a lot of challenges.”