More Volunteers Needed To Help Refugees

Institute expands community engagement services

Last fall, the International Institute received permission from the federal government to increase our sponsorships by 300 refugees annually. More refugees are in-need, and fewer resettlement sites are available.

As a result of delays in overseas processing, only 15% of expected refugees arrived in St. Louis during the first six months of the current fiscal year. Since May, our arrival numbers have increased dramatically to compensate for the earlier shortfall.

Accordingly, we have vastly expanded our volunteer opportunities. In May we kicked off the Community Engagement in Resettlement Program (CERP) which drew a new pool of 30 volunteers to the effort. More are needed.

We aim to build a cadre of 100 volunteers willing to commit two to four hours weekly in three month increments. Weekly volunteers will focus on welcoming families, setting up apartments, making home visits, providing tutoring and other classroom support, organizing donations, and more.

The next volunteer orientations at the International Institute will be held July 6 from 2-4 pm, and July 20 from 5:30-7:30 pm.

Episodic volunteers are also needed to help fill the gap between the modest resettlement allowance each family receives and the true need. Volunteers can conduct in-kind donations drives, fundraise, and plan special welcoming events including monthly community potlucks.

Volunteers from five local organizations and schools attended the May 26 potluck. Here, Kelly Moore of IISTL orients students from the Marian Middle School who volunteered in May.

Most recently on May 26, a community potluck was hosted at the International Institute with support from the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Islamic Foundation of St. Louis, Marian Middle School, Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, and Living Word UMC. Each group provided a meal for 30 plus volunteers to help serve; chat with refugees, other volunteers and staff; and clear up afterwards.

It was a wonderful event that drew more than 150 newcomer refugees. The next pot luck is scheduled for July 28. Contact Kelly Moore at if your group is interested in participating.

“Offering new arrival refugees a warm lunch or a bright new toothbrush is a humane gesture which most of them have not experienced in a very long time,” said Anna Crosslin, President & CEO of the International Institute.

Contact Carrie Brickey at or ext. 161 for further information or to volunteer today!

Immigrant Entrepreneurs Spotlighted

Two Institute Clients Win Awards

St. Louis has benefitted from a burst of new cuisines and restaurants in recent years. In recognition, six local food entrepreneurs were recently honored with the St. Louis Mosaic Project’s inaugural Immigrant Food Entrepreneur Awards.

Two awardees were graduates of the International Institute’s small business development program. Abderrahmane Meskine received technical assistance to help him launch Baida Moroccan Restaurant. Alaa Al Derie of Cham Bakery also received TA in addition to a business start-up loan.

Diego Abente, VP & Director of Microenterprise Development at the Institute, said that Meskine and Al Derie benefitted from some guidance, and, in Al Derie’s case, a modest loan to get off to the right start. We are proud of our role in the success of these and dozens of other immigrant-owned businesses each year.

The June 1 event was hosted at the Missouri History Museum in conjunction with the kickoff of Immigration Heritage Month 2016. The awards were presented by St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney. They honored immigrant food entrepreneurs for their creativity and dedication in creating a more welcoming region through their diverse efforts.

The other four immigrant food entrepreneurs honored that evening were: Jason Jan (FroYo and Nami Ramen); Julia Li (LuLu’s Fresh Express and LuLu’s Chinese & Dim Sum Food Truck); Ermin and Senada Grbic (Grbic Restaurant); and Angel Jimenez Guiterrez (Señor Pique). Each entrepreneur shared fascinating stories about their respective journeys to success.

Two of six 2016 Mosaic food entrepreneur honorees benefitted from IISTL’s small business services. (from left) Abderrahmane Meskine, owner/operator of Baida Moroccan Restaurant, admires his award with Diego Abente, VP & Director of Economic Development at IISTL.

Adding to the festiveness of the awards program were a variety of ethnic foods from a selection of food trucks, including: Bombay Food Junkiez; Brazil Express; Big Fat Greek Truck; and Lu Lu’s Chinese & Dim Sum. Communal eating tables brought the more than 150 guests together to sample a variety of foods while sharing wonderful stories of food heritage in St. Louis.