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Maryan's Story

In 2007, after having been shot in the leg, Maryan Mohamed fled the violence in Somalia with her mother, father, and one brother. They traveled to Uganda, where Maryan married and had three children. During her seven years as a refugee in Uganda, a woman from the U.N. repeatedly encouraged her to apply for resettlement by herself, that she would be able to bring her family soon. The woman told Maryan, “You have the strength.”

In 2013, leaving her eldest daughter and son with her husband in Uganda, Maryan and her four-year-old daughter, Fathi, left for the United States. During the Domestic Medical Examination for Newly Arriving Refugees, Maryan learned she was pregnant. Her daughter, Nalyal, was born in March 2014. The family moved from Phoenix to Mankato that October and, just a few months later, Maryan and Fathi enrolled at Good Counsel Learning Center.

In 2019, Maryan applied for citizenship; her exam and interview were scheduled for early July. Despite attending class throughout the school year, she still had much to learn — so we allowed her to attend summer school with her daughters!  Maryan expressed her faith in prayer, telling us, “I pray to God. God told me I will pass.” Maryan’s hard work and prayer paid off: she passed the interview and exam, becoming a naturalized citizen just a few weeks later. Becoming a new American is only part of Maryan’s plan: she, Nalyal, and Fathi continued to study two hours a week in the Learning Center until COVID-19 forced us to end the 2019-2020 school year early. 

For years, Maryan has worked diligently with her attorney to bring her husband, eldest daughter, and son to the U.S. Her first setback was Executive Order 13769, which prohibited refugees from coming into the country for 120 days. Next, she had to arrange DNA testing for herself and each of her children living abroad to prove their relationship. Each test cost the family $800.  Just when the family had cleared their last hurdle and began to plan their reunion, the coronavirus pandemic emerged. While Maryan continues to raise Fathi and Nalyal, she also works to raise the needed money for the plane fare, keeping in touch with her family through Skype and trusting that the day will come when children and parents will be reunited at last.

You can support learners like Maryan, Fathi, and Nalyal. Click Here or call Dave Coughlan at 507-389-4235 to learn more.

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Earlier this year, Sister Dorothy Zeller and Dave Coughlan accepted a donation of $1,500 from the Mankato Clinic Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to encourage and support the health and well being of our community through health initiatives that promote and improve community wellness. This gift supports the Learning Center's scholarship program for families.

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Carlos's Story

Carlos Maldonado was born in San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala, one of nine children in his family.  As a young man of 23 in the midst of a brutal civil war that went for 36 years, Carlos volunteered at the San Lucas Mission, laying the foundation for a new building that was eventually used as a library and dining hall.  Under the guidance of Fr. Greg Schaefer of Sleepy Eye and the School Sisters, Carlos worked hard and made steady progress on the building. Noticing his hard work and abilities, Sr. Maureen O’Keefe asked if he would like to go to the United States. Being from a large family, he told her that he did not think that would ever be possible. In spite of the civil war looming in the background – or perhaps because of it, Fr. Greg and Sr. Maureen worked on arrangements. Just one month later on a one-way ticket, Carlos landed in St. Paul with a thirty-day tourist visa. 

It was February, 1967, and the weather was bitterly cold for this newcomer from Central America. Carlos did not know one word of English.  While living in St. Paul, Carlos renewed his 30-day tourist visa three times.  The immigration officer finally told him that if he could be accepted into a school, he could stay for four more years on a student visa. He came to Mankato and with the help of a translator, Carlos soon passed the entrance exam. He was accepted as a student at South Central College and received his four-year student visa. Sr. Maureen O’Keefe introduced Carlos to Sr. Mary Donald, the founder of the Learning Center. Carlos was an eager student of the language and within six weeks, Sr. Mary Donald had him reading the gospel at Sunday Mass.  

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In 2019, Carlos shared his story with attendees of Shrimpin' on the Hill, our annual fundraiser.

He was also introduced to Fr. Paul Halloran who gave him a job doing maintenance work at the Newman Center.  This opportunity allowed Carlos to have a room with a bed.  While still attending South Central College, Carlos was also offered a job by the Coughlan family working in the stone quarry.  Between the Learning Center and his jobs, Carlos continued to work on his language skills.  He told us that he learned good English from Sr. Mary Donald and bad English at the stone quarry. Besides studying at South Central College, Carlos also attended Mankato State College. He studied engineering.

 

While still a student, he was hired by 3M. Carlos worked in various positions at 3M, in New Ulm, St. Paul, and Mexico.  Carlos even had a leadership position at the 3M facility in Mexico. While going back and forth across the border working in Mexico and living in Texas, he applied for his US citizenship. He is now a dual citizen of the US and Guatemala.  Now retired, Carlos and his wife, Rosanna,  travel to Shakopee, Minnesota to escape the hot summers of San Lucas, Guatemala, returning to Guatemala to escape Minnesota winters. 


In 2018, Carlos was in Mankato and met with his friend, Dave Coughlan.  He asked Dave about Sr. Mary Donald, whom he had not seen in about 50 years.  Dave made a phone call and within an hour, the former teacher and student were engaged in memories of the past.  They met again in 2019 for another short visit.  


Carlos tells us he is glad he took the risk to leave his family and home in San Lucas as a young man.  He is so grateful to Sr. Mary Donald for teaching him one-on-one and for all the people who made it possible for him to make his American dream come true.