Stories & Updates

Severin’s Migration story

Severin’s Migration story

His Instagram post from his hospital bed read, “If anyone loves me, they will bring me food!” And his friends know that he means it. Severin exemplifies the old adage, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” To know Severin well is to know his enthusiastic love for food – wings, watermelon, Takis, seafood boils, and venison jerky. He spent much of 2022, however, eating bland hospital food.

Severin is a storyteller, a caregiver, and a friend. His friends describe him as genuine, wise, a good advice giver, and an excellent role model for his younger brother. Severin’s migration story began in Cameroon, but his story continues to impact people in Indianapolis today.

Born in Cameroon in 2003, Severin traveled to the Central African Republic with his mother when he was young to stay with her family. While they were there, a civil war broke out and rebels burned their home down. They fled back to Cameroon. While Severin was growing up in Cameroon, it became apparent that he had significant health issues. His mother, in an effort to afford adequate health care for him, ran her own small business and began selling her belongings bit by bit. She soon realized that even if she sold everything, Severin could not get the care he needed so she applied for refugee status. She hoped that in the United States, she could find better work opportunities and better health care for her son.

When he was 14, Severin traveled to the United States with his mother and his 1-year old brother. In many ways, he lived a typical American teenage life. He was on the school soccer team. He enjoyed normal activities like hanging out with friends and cooking, but hated doing the dishes. His favorite classes were Biology and Geometry. He cared for his brother while his Mom worked. Not everything, however, was typical for Severin. His health problems persisted and he was in and out of the hospital. In May 2022, his high school graduation ceremony was held in a hospital room at Eskenazi Hospital when his guidance counselor came to give him his diploma and was joined by his soccer coach, his pastors, and his mother. 

During 2022, Severin has been hospitalized several times. Due to a birth defect, he has only one good lung. His medical team hopes to remove the non-functioning lung, so they are working to make his body strong enough to endure the surgery and recover well. Through each hospitalization, Severin’s attitude remains optimistic even as he faces obstacles. He enjoys visits from his friends and appreciates the prayers of anyone who comes to see him. And, of course, he welcomes any food that visitors bring him when they drop by! He’s never at a loss for stories to tell and topics to discuss.

Severin’s positive outlook inspires others. He explains, “No matter how much I give her [my mother], it won’t be enough for what she has done for me. The most important thing is not to be rich but to have enough to take care of my family – my mom and brother. I consider myself the man of the house and I want to help my mom so she can count on me.” 

His hopes are set on the future as he looks forward to studying to become a mechanical engineer after recovering from surgery. In the meantime, Severin inspires people around him by his faithful friendship and his attitude of gratitude. Even though he could justify feelings of anger or defeat, Severin does not consider either option.  

Read more: Severin’s Migration story

**Migration Stories are written by the Migros Aid team and wish to highlight the heroic journeys of our friends from around the world.

Migros Academy Spring Session has Begun to Offer Support for Students in their Education

Migros Academy Spring Session has Begun to Offer Support for Students in their Education

Since our beginning as an organization in 2017, we have desired to come alongside refugee students in their education. In 2022, we transitioned “Homework Club” to the Migros Academy. Our first session was in 2022. Our second session of Migros Academy launched on January 17 with renewed energy after a few weeks off for Winter Break. The tutoring team met over break to lend ideas and vision for our new year.  As a result of input, we’ve made some changes that are already bringing new life to our Tuesday evenings together!

The most signification change is that we gather in small groups now, rather than one-on-one pairings. The tutors and students gather in age-level groups with three to five students and tutors working together. Each of these age groups has its own flavor.

·       The preschool is in a self-contained room helping the youngest Academy students get a solid start on motor skills, letter and number skills, and other skills that will help them be ready for Kindergarten. Last week, they learned to sing “Old MacDonald had a Farm” and made letters from play-doh.

·       The Kindergarten-2nd graders are currently working on language skills to prepare them for standardized language testing that is coming up at school. They practice reading aloud, listen to books read aloud, and play language games with their tutors.

·       The 3rd-5th graders and 6th-8th graders begin each session with a launchpad question to practice writing and discussion skills. Last week they discussed whether they would rather take a time machine 100 years into the future or 100 years into the past. Following the launchpad discussion, they practice reading, play strategy games, listen to read-alouds, do math fact drills, and participate in a variety of cooperative activities.

The small groups have given new life to our Tuesday evenings as we see even more relationships form and grow. Every Tuesday, I’m blown away by our tutors and our students. I am convinced that no one in the Indianapolis area has more fun that we do on Tuesday evenings. If you’d like to come visit and see if I’m right, we would love to have you join us!

Read more: Migros Academy Spring Session has Begun to Offer Support for Students in their Education

Our plan is to add 5-6 more students this session, and we need more adults to make that happen! please contact us

Migros Mentor Stories in December 2022

Migros Mentor Stories in December 2022

Volunesia means “a moment when you forget that you’re volunteering to change lives because it is changing yours.”

Migros mentors all share these moments often of how their lives are being changed as a mentor to refugee. Here are just a few stories from December 2022 that Migros mentors shared. Our goal is to have 100+ mentors in 2023. Will you be our next mentor?

Contact us if you are interested in mentoring.

  • “I spent an hour on Friday afternoons helping a woman from Afghanistan practice English. Recently, she knew a few days prior had been my birthday. When I arrived at her house, she cooked a special meal from home (Afghanistan) to celebrate my birthday with me. It was very sweet! It showed me just how valuable our relationship is to her and her family. ” (from Jessica )
  • A mentor meets with a group of teen girls weekly to study the book of Acts and offer support to each other
  • “I really loved the Academy Christmas party. They deserved all the special treats they got that evening. ” (from Caroline )
  • “The end-of-the-year Academy party was so much fun. Especially watching the kids get their certificates!” (from Steve)
  • “When I bring one family food from a food pantry, all the kids come running out to bring the food in, and to find something yummy to eat. “(from Paula)
  • A 6th-grade boy eagerly shared his semester grades with his tutors at Migros Academy!
  • Mentors took 6 children to their first-ever Mcdonald’s dinner.
  • A mentor to several Afghan women recently walked alongside a woman as her husband was dying of cancer by visiting the hospital and helping with medical affairs. When she was left widowed with 3 children, the mentor attended the funeral dinner and helped with expenses.
  • A team of people works with a 20-year old young man in a health crisis. Mentors visit him, take food, set up his internet, go to doctor appointments with him, and care for his younger brother.
  • A mentor helps a family who lost SNAP benefits to reapply.
  • A mentor drives a 5th grader to the Health Department for his school vaccinations.
Read more: Migros Mentor Stories in December 2022

Please contact us if you want to mentor..

3 Churches help Aid Refugee Families over the Holidays with Gift Baskets, Gloves/Hats, and Hygiene Kits

3 Churches help Aid Refugee Families over the Holidays with Gift Baskets, Gloves/Hats, and Hygiene Kits

We are grateful for the following churches that provided practical gifts to refugee families over the Christmas holidays. Eagle Church in Whitestown provided over 100+ gift baskets filled with a blanket, toiletries, socks, and detergent. Chapelwood Baptist in Indianapolis collected 56 pairs of gloves, 21 hats, 14 hats/glove sets to be given to people over the winter. One Fellowship Church gave  20 hygiene boxes filled with practical items for families to use.

Thank you again for this sign of generosity and partnership with us in serving the refugee community in our city.

Read more: 3 Churches help Aid Refugee Families over the Holidays with Gift Baskets, Gloves/Hats, and Hygiene Kits Please contact us if you would like your church to collect gift baskets for us to give: 3 Churches help Aid Refugee Families over the Holidays with Gift Baskets, Gloves/Hats, and Hygiene Kits

Yazmin Westin Memorial Fund Established by Family to Benefit Migros Aid, Inc.

Yazmin Westin Memorial Fund Established by Family to Benefit Migros Aid, Inc.

Yazmin Westin always empathized with the disadvantaged. So when Migros Aid was formed in 2017 she became an instrumental volunteer with the group that was using space at her church in the Speedway area of Indianapolis.

“She was always an inspiration and encouragement to me by all the ways she helped out,” said Joel Vestal, Migros Aid’s founder. 

Yazmin died in 2018 at the age of 46 after a courageous battle with cancer. Her family wants to honor her memory by creating the Yazmin Jamal Westin Memorial Fund at Migros Aid, Inc. 

The fund will be used to support the work of Migros Aid, which seeks to empower the immigrant and refugee community in Indianapolis which number upwards of 130,000.    The support will be for sustaining the numerous programs of Migros Aid like mentoring and tutoring of refugee students who struggle in their education. The Yazmin Westin Memorial Fund has been established by her family in December 2022.

Yazmin was an active member of Speedway Baptist Church. She freely donated her time, clothes and skills in cooking and childcare as a volunteer at Migros Aid in the beginning of Migros

Read more: Yazmin Westin Memorial Fund Established by Family to Benefit Migros Aid, Inc.

“Yazmin was so foundational and faithfully active in our beginnings as a new organization,” remembers Vestal. “She donated so many personal items to newly arriving families. I remember so many new volunteers that called or emailed me and told me that Yazmin had told them about us. She cooked so many meals for our weekly outreach event called English Club at the time.”

Yazmins interest in Migros Aid and in helping the local immigrant population tied back into her family history; her father Jamal Masud was born in Palestine in 1945. He struck out early to find work and help support his family, and at the age of 14 travelled by ship to Brazil.  Following work and family connections, led him to the Caribbean, where he met and married Carmen Cintron-Green in Puerto Rico and later to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yazmin, the first of 5 children, was born in St. Croix in 1971, and in 1976 the family moved to Illinois.

She grew up in the midwest, graduating from high school as salutatorian. She received a double bachelor’s degree in Sociology and English Literature. She married her college sweetheart Eric Westin in 1995 and they had four children, which they raised in the Indianapolis metro area. 

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation towards the Yazmin Westin Memorial Fund, you can do it two different ways.

Click here to make an online donation. (Click on Yazmin Westin Memorial Fund in drop down menu)

Or Mail a donation to:

Migros Aid, Inc. P.O. Box 20086 Indianapolis IN 46220. Include a note with your gift, “For Yazmin Westin Memorial Fund”

Migros Academy Concludes Session 1 with Party and Awards Ceremony

Migros Academy Concludes Session 1 with Party and Awards Ceremony

Since 2017, we have valued investing into the lives of refugees kids and their education. “Homework Club” was where it all began and for four years we saw many students and volunteers come to a local apartment to get help with their homework each week. This year we transitioned Homework club and launched Migros Academy. Angie Wiggins joined the Migros Aid team to give leadership and organization to Migros Academy in developing ways to help in the ongoing education of students we serve. Wiggins comes with over 25 years of teaching experience and has a real passion for education.

Fifteen students completed session 1 from August to December this year and were recognized for their commitment. They all were given a certificate and a gift bag (Thanks to our partner: Eagle Church) this past Tuesday evening. Students are picked up each week and get one on tutoring from Migros volunteers. Session 2 begins in January 2023 and if you are interested in helping, please contact us. All the participants in Migros Academy are refugees and their parents speak little to no English and often cannot help them with their homework. .

Angie Wiggins, director of Migros Academy reflects on the evening,

“My heart was full as we drove the kids home after the Migros Academy Christmas party. The night was a resounding success with all the typical party fare that always thrills kids – games, gifts, snacks. The chatter in the van was a near deafening volume as kids talked excitedly about the party and belted out Christmas carols (mostly with incorrect lyrics, such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rainbow.” Some of the memorable quotes revolved around the gifts they received:

“I’ve always dreamed of owning slime, and now I do!”

“I’m saving the candy to give to my Mom, so she can have a snack at work.”

“My new doll’s name is Sarah.”

Amidst all the conversation, the comment that stood out to me was from a rambunctious 12-year old boy, who boldly exclaimed, “I love Migros Academy!” This particular middle schooler is at the age where appearing cool is of utmost importance, and while expressing enthusiasm about tutoring is decidedly uncool, he couldn’t contain his enthusiasm. This comment was powerful because it was unexpected! This young man struggles to focus on schoolwork despite being bright and curious. He would usually rather rough house with other boys or think up mischief. The first several weeks he came, it felt like his entire mission on Tuesday evenings was to derail and disrupt. I wondered if we’d be able to let him keep coming.  

Read more: Migros Academy Concludes Session 1 with Party and Awards Ceremony

Week after week, we saw his attitude evolve. He became more respectful to me, always asking me about my day when he got in the van. He more often engaged in books and strategy games with his tutors. Before long, I began to look forward to seeing him each week, and now I can’t imagine Migros Academy without him. 

While he still isn’t a straight-A student and he still has plenty of mischief in him, I am convinced that our little community on Tuesday evenings has become a safe place for him. A place where he knows people are for him and expect great things from him. A place where whatever antics he may get into, we will welcome him back the next week. 

Migros Academy, since its inception in June 2022, has made a difference in his life and the lives of other students. We have met for 6 months and this week, 15 students received certificates for completing Session 1. When we begin Session 2 in January, we will launch with more students! Would you consider being a supportive adult in a refugee student’s life? Your weekly one-hour commitment can make a monumental difference for a student and it may even become a highlight of your week.”

Operation Hope: Our 2022 Year-End Campaign

Operation Hope:  Our 2022 Year-End Campaign

Operation Hope is our 2022 year-end campaign.   As 2022 comes to an end soon,  would you consider helping us meet our goal for our year-end campaign?  We have set a goal to raise $75,000 and need your help!   We are grateful for some generous gifts to help us get going in this campaign, as we are about to enter into 2023.  

Click here to see what your donation will do.

Click here to
-Make a donation and help us meet our goal
-Become a fundraiser
-View our progress in this campaign

A brief explanation about Operation Hope from Migros Aid’s founder:

I was once in a refugee camp in Africa years ago and I will never forget a conversation I had with an older man who was a refugee from Sudan.    

He said to me,  “A man can live 40 days without food, 4 days without water, and 4 minutes without air but no one can live 4 seconds without hope.”

Hope.     Sometimes we have it and in other moments we are searching for it.  Hope is about expectation or anticipating an outcome that is favorable.  We hope in power,  pursuits, and different kinds of possessions only to be left disappointed and restless.      

Read more: Operation Hope: Our 2022 Year-End Campaign

There is a kind of hope that lasts and sustains.   It is not based on feeling or emotion but on the truth of what God has promised us.   In my understanding,  lasting hope is birthed from faith and always leads to love.  (1 Cor 13:13)

In the scripture, we read about this lasting hope, “…and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:5)

Operation Hope is about enabling Migros Aid to be a conduit of hope to those in our community who have fled war, hardship, and poverty.   So many are hopeless and seeking a lasting, sustaining hope.  We offer and seek this kind of hope and want to share hope with others through our words and acts of love.   Also, I think we discover hope for ourselves when we give of ourselves to others in service. 

We tutor students to offer hope. We mentor to offer hope.   We help people learn English to offer hope.  We explain how things work in America to offer hope.  We play soccer with a teenager to offer hope. We pray with and for others to offer hope.  We serve to offer hope.   We share our lives to offer hope.   We give a donation to offer hope.  (Mt 25:40)

Would you help us offer this kind of lasting hope into 2023?  Your donation will do that. Thank you for your prayers and support. 

Hopeful Because of Jesus,

Joel Vestal
Luke 18:1

10 Reasons to Make a Donation on #givingtuesday

10 Reasons to Make a Donation on #givingtuesday

We can all look back on our lives and remember people who made positive impacts on us. At Migros Aid, we believe our work is important and allows us to enlist others to support and encourage those we serve. Thriving in life requires a community to come around and offer love, encouragement, and friendship.

Your donation on this #givingtuesday will allow us to continue to serve these ten people – and others!  

  1. Laurent, from Cameroon, is five and lives with his mom and brother. His brother has been in and out of the hospital a lot this year and numerous people from the Migros community help the family. Laurent proudly tells everyone he knows about being on High Honor Roll and involved in weekly tutoring and CARE club. 
  1. Hannah, from Syria, has been learning English with a Migros mentor, and she just passed her U.S. citizenship test with the help of a Migros mentor. 
  1. Obed has started coming to Migros Academy after hearing his siblings, Prince and Davis, talk about how much they like their tutors. He wants to work on bringing up his grades.
  1. Mahat, from Somalia, was quite a handful and it was hard to get him focused when first coming to Migros Academy. He has matured in many ways and loves playing strategy games, like Battleship, with tutors. He’s even taken a couple books home with him.
  1. Daima asked a mentor, “Have you ever been to McDonalds? Is it nice? We heard it was nice. I always wanted to go there.”  Daima, along with her 6 siblings, come for help with homework at our weekly Academy and attend CARE Club. They are soon to be treated to a meal at McDonald’s over Christmas holidays.  
  1. Mohammad will soon be sworn in as an American citizen. He has been helped by Migros mentors for the 5 years he has been in Indianapolis, after fleeing war in Syria.     
  1. Chance,a teenage girl, meets regularly with a Migros mentor for Bible study. Her mentor also assisted her in starting a new job.
  1. Sandrine is a teen girl from Africa and recently enjoyed the Winterlights Display with her mentor at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
  1. Solei is a refugee mother of four and has been in America since June. She currently works weekly with one of our cleaning crews to earn money for her family.
  1.  Emma Lar finally can come to get help with her homework at Migros Academy.  She is in Kindergarten and now joins her brothers: Eh My and Chrys Ta Pah.   

Click here to make a donation

A Few Stories from Migros Mentors Making an Impact

A Few Stories from Migros Mentors Making an Impact

Did you know we have 70+ Migros mentors? We like to imagine the breadth of our work through these amazing folks – all volunteers! These mentors meet with families and others tutor students on a weekly basis through the Migros Academy.    

We love hearing the stories of how many are engaging creatively and helping our refugee friends thrive. We often say that we want to be “friendship brokers”. We connect volunteers with refugees to become friends. We all need a support system to thrive. The challenge for most refugees is that that support system can be limited due to language and culture. Refugees support system of other family and friendships are miles away in their home nations and it can be lonely. Will you consider being a mentor? We promise it might change you more than you can imagine.

A few stories from Migros Mentors…

“We were reading a book about the Amazon Rain Forest & decided to look up videos of animals that live there. It was so much fun!”

“One of the children I tutor is (age appropriately) inpatient but we have been practicing patience when playing board games. Each week the improvement is noticeable and I know this skill will serve her well when she starts school.”

“Sandrine helped volunteer with me and we celebrated her birthday by making candles.  I took her to the Celebrate Science event to visit the booths and learn more about stem and opportunities for summer programs and internships. When I took her home her aunt (Mukeshimana) and grandmother taught me how to make fufu.”

“I have seen some students become more interactive and open to communication, including listening better.”  

“One of the girls in our CARE group got her driver’s license and learner’s permit. She kept studying over the summer and finally passed on the second time taking the written test. “

“Seeing Queen recognize me and our friendship each week – appreciate that growth!’

“I think mostly just watching how the kids grow as you spend time with them… not just physically but also mentally and emotionally “

“Very rewarding seeing people eager to become citizens”

“One student passes the Civics portion – a great feat given the memorization she had to do and the other student passed all portions. I have explained to my students that English is so important to become part of the community and learn more about people and cultures. “

Read more: A Few Stories from Migros Mentors Making an Impact

Please contact us to get involved and mentor today!

‘Reflections on Being a Friend at Migros Academy’ By Martie Hoofer

‘Reflections on Being a Friend at Migros Academy’ By Martie Hoofer

“I’ve taught hundreds of students in my career as a 7th grade reading & writing teacher.  Why did this new volunteer gig feel so intimidating?  Oh… there would just be the 2 of us with no set curriculum.  THAT is what had me so nervous as I walked through the door my first Tuesday night for tutoring with Migros Aid.

Then it hit me – I was there to be a FRIEND!  A smiling consistent face to chat with, have fun with, and maybe learn a little along the way.  Ahhh…. I could be a FRIEND!

Just think about it. What do friends do? They chat while doing things they both enjoy.  For Sifa, Rebecca, Daima, and I, that means we color with colored pencils, play games, read (we’ve found some great picture books!), write, and share snacks while swapping stories about siblings and school.

Being a part of the Migros Aid community is one of my favorite hours of the week where all I have to do is be a friend.”

By Martie Hoofer, a tutor at Migros Academy since the opening session. She and her husband, Steve, have 2 grown children. Martie taught at Pike Township schools for many years and remains actively involved in the school district. She worships and serves at One Fellowship Church.

The Migros Academy is our effort to empower emerging generations of immigrant and refugees in their education through one one one tutoring.

Read more: ‘Reflections on Being a Friend at Migros Academy’ By Martie Hoofer

Please contact us if you want to get involved in a student’s life