Community Giving

Hands Across the World

Community Foundation(s): Central Minnesota

A single Somali mother traveled to St. Cloud with her two teen daughters, leaving behind not only her homeland terrorized by violence and corruption, but also her youngest children. When she arrived, she felt lost in a new homeland that did not readily welcome her lifestyle or skills.

“She was one of the saddest faces I had seen in my life,” said Brianda Cediel, executive director of Hands Across the World.

It was hearing stories like this during monthly breakfasts that led Cediel to start a new program to train immigrant women to become child care providers and teachers in Central Minnesota.

“Each of them has their strength and we really want to build that strength more and more,” Cediel said.

Hands Across the World, based in St. Cloud, serves as the first contact for refugees in Central Minnesota, helping them find a place to live, learn and grow in their new community. A $15,000 grant from the Central Minnesota Community Foundation's Women's Fund helped Hands Across the World fund the storytelling project which aims to foster awareness and acceptance of a culture often unfamiliar to central Minnesota-born citizens.

Another $10,000 grant from the Foundation allowed Hands Across the World and Child Care Choices to train 43 immigrant women and to give them the opportunity to become Minnesota licensed home child care providers. Three women completed the state requirements and now operate home businesses. Others work at local child care centers or with local programs.

Another Somali woman pursued a teaching degree at St. Cloud State University.

The results are a testament to how these women can find their place in a new community, provide a valuable service in schools and make a lasting difference. “They are giving to this community and they are receiving from this community,” Cediel said.