Changing lives. . . one woman at a time

This fall, Sister Richarde Marie Wolf, coordinator of the Refugee Outreach Program, 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.

Sister Richarde Marie Wolf (back row; right) poses with two of the Refugee Outreach Program’s students Zahra (front left of Sister Richarde Marie) and her mother, Adday (front right of Sister Richarde Marie), and their family attended the celebration.The Refugee Outreach Program is an extension of the 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 has been in obtaining access to education while lacking a support system to assist in caring for young children. In many cases, transportation is 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 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.”

You may also be interested in:
  • Life as I know it in Eggenburg Sister Jean Greenwald reflects upon her time teaching immigrants and refugees English in Eggenburg, Austria. She and Sister Helen Plum will be there at least one year to help refugees assimilate into Austrian culture. Sister Jean explains their daily situation in Eggenburg.
  • Honoring Blessed Theresa On May 9, we honor Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, our Foundress, on her death date. She created the School Sisters of Notre Dame with the vision of educating the girl-child and transforming the world through education. We invite you to learn more about our foundress.
  • Sending sisters to Austria Read Sister Carolyn Sur’s reflection on the process of sending two School Sisters of Notre Dame to Austria to teach immigrant and refugee children English. Sisters Jean Greenwald and Helen Plum will spend one to two years in this ministry working with children from the Middle East and Africa.

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