The Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Alliance (MIRA) fosters the well-being and self-sufficiency of Middle Eastern refugees, immigrants, and asylees in Chicago. MIRA serves as a first point of contact for a diverse client population from around the world, offering culturally competent services for those from the Middle East and Islamic cultures. The immigrants and refugees we serve arrive in the United States facing numerous barriers to full integration into society. Our mandate is to provide them with the tools they need to build successful, stable, enriching lives in their new homes. The primary needs of the community relate to navigating American systems for safety net services, employment, and education; integrating into American society while maintaining distinct cultural and community support and traditions; and undertaking the legal processes necessary for continued life in the United States without undue financial burdens or hardships.
To address these needs, MIRA has provided the following services to over 600 clients and their families, with a total impact of about 1000 immigrants and refugees, in the last fiscal year (July 18 – June 19):
Community Engagement and Empowerment Programs
MIRA provides the resources and structure for Middle Eastern refugees to support one another and welcome new arrivals with what they need to succeed through support groups, community events, and bridge-building activities with the wider Chicago community. In FY18-19 189 MIRA Community Empowerment Clients participated in 645 Empowerment Activities.
Case Management Program
MIRA helps Middle Eastern refugees and immigrants access the services they need, including public benefits, healthcare, and referrals to partner organizations or other agencies. In FY18-19 MIRA provided 341 Case Management Clients with 677 Case Management Case Activities.
Assistance for Families with Children
MIRA offers a variety of support for families with children, including pre-school and school enrollment, working with teachers and administration, support for struggling students, parental support, and monthly Parents’ Groups. In FY18-19 MIRA provided 120 Child and Family Services Clients with 480 Child and Family Services Case Activities.
Adult Education Guidance Program
MIRA works with clients to address their educational needs, including assistance applying for college credit and training programs, evaluating educational credentials, and applying for financial aid. In FY18-19 MIRA provided 97 Adult Education Clients with 152 Adult Education Case Activities.
Immigration Legal Services
The MIRA Immigration Legal Services Program assists with naturalization petitions and green card applications. There is no fee for the service, although application fees still apply. In FY18-19 MIRA assisted 240 clients with immigration legal services.
Ms. Youngberg joined MIRA in June 2014 to serve as Executive Director. With nearly twenty years’ experience in the non-profit field, she holds a master’s degree in Divinity from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College. Prior to MIRA, Laura served at non-profit organizations, including Holy Family School, Health for Humanity, and Northwestern University.
OTHMAN AL ANI
PROGRAM and LEGAL CLINIC MANAGER
Mr. Al Ani joined MIRA in May 2014 as Case Manager and Employment Specialist, and is now Program and Legal Clinic Manager. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Physics from Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad in 2006. In Iraq, Othman was a social worker for Norwegian Refugee Council, where he helped internally-displaced Iraqis to advocate for their rights and supplied them with any necessities. He received partial accreditation to provide immigration legal assistance from the Department of Justice/Bureau of Immigration in 2016. At MIRA, Othman runs the legal clinic for naturalization and green card application services, and oversees program development and evaluation.
FAMILY AND EDUCATION SERVICES MANAGER
Ms. Alhindi joined MIRA in October 2018 as a Welcoming Center/Seniors Program Case Manager. She came to U.S. as an immigrant in 1999. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in May of 2014 with a Bachelor in Social Work. Then she enrolled as an Advanced Standing student at the Jane Addams College of Social Work Master’s program at UIC, graduating in May 2015 with Master degree in Social Work concentrating in Children and Family. She has worked as an intern at Metropolitan Family service and at Arab American Family Service. Ms. Alhindi works with clients to independently conduct assessments and provide help to immigrants and refugees from diverse backgrounds in their transition to the United States, including accessing benefits, applying for jobs, and other case management. She utilizes community resources and provides education to those in need as a Social Worker.
Ms. Korel began as Client Support Assistant at MIRA in November 2017 and was quickly promoted to Benefits Case Manager in February 2018. In her current role, she is responsible for assisting immigrants and refugees in accessing public benefits and services needed to ease their transition to life in the US.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
Ms. Hanna joined MIRA in March 2017 and currently serves as Community Engagement Manager. She is skilled and trained in leadership and family counseling, with several years of experience in women’s empowerment. She has worked with many non-profit organizations with emphases on community service and development both in Iraq and Chicago. She has a great passion for helping others in the community.
LEGAL CLINIC REPRESENTATIVE
Ninweh Ishaya joined MIRA as a Client Services Assistant in July 2018. She is a refugee from Kirkuk, Iraq and arrived in the U.S in 2016. Ninweh is currently a student at Oakton Community College. She is seeking a management degree in business. Ninweh received her Department of Justice accreditation to provide low cost legal services in 2020. Ninweh wants to support our Middle Eastern community as they overcome the challenges of life in Chicago.
SENIORS CASE MANAGER
Zina Qawami joined the MIRA staff in the spring of 2020 to serve as the Case Manager for the Senior Refugee Services Program, through a new grant from the State of Illinois/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. Zina will provide personal case management and group activities for Refugee Seniors age 60 and up who have been in the US for less than 5 years.