New SMOC CEO reflects on community center – The Globe

WORTHINGTON – Driven by a desire to use her leadership skills and raise her 16-month-old child in a quiet town, as well as a great love for Lake Okabena, Amna Arabi has returned to Worthington, this time as a executive director of the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council.

“I’m excited, actually, to work with SMOC and help bring more communities together,” Arabi said last week, fresh from a tour of SMOC’s Head Start building and still in her first week in the new post.

She praised the program and its director, Lori Gunnink, for their work with preschoolers and their families, involving parents in children’s learning processes and teaching them along the way.

“I visited a wonderful place. They help children and families,” she said. “I was impressed. I was really impressed, it’s a great diverse team.

Arabi referred to a case in which, through the Head Start program, two divorced parents were able to work together to help their child, despite their differences, in order to promote the well-being of the child.

SMOC, a community action agency, serves low-income people in Murray, Nobles, Pipestone and Rock counties, and also offers programs in other counties in the region, making Arabi the ideal fit for the post.

“The Board is confident that Amna will do an excellent job leading the SMOC, and we look forward to working with her,” Board Chair Cheryl Avenel-Navara said earlier this month.

Arabi’s previous work includes serving as Program Coordinator for Healthy Families for Healthy Communities and Family Planning at WellShare International in Minneapolis. She has also served as a refugee specialist with the Minnesota Council of Churches in the Twin Cities, focusing on refugee reception and placement programs.

She has experience writing grant applications, and prior to coming to the United States, she worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Sudan to find solutions to refugee issues in Sudan. .

She previously lived in Worthington, and between 2013 and 2016 she completed a housing assessment for the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and volunteered for the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, walking throughout the community to survey its housing stock. .

Arabi hopes to bring more programs to SMOC and Worthington in particular, assessing community needs and helping new businesses and initiatives get started, solving community problems and helping people.

SMOC offers a variety of programs, including Head Start, energy assistance, home proofing for the elderly or disabled, family planning, and a dental program.

Arabi hopes to grow in the field of community health, training people to help navigate health care and the community health system, which can be complex even for those without language, cultural or cultural barriers. or others.

She also hopes to make the SMOC building more accessible to people with disabilities, as well as more user-friendly overall.

“People with disabilities are important to us,” she said, and mentioned applying for grants for a community center. “I want to be able to help turn that around.”

Arabi is already looking for community partners and hopes to listen to them, hear their voices and fill gaps in services rather than competing with other groups.

“I can’t do it alone,” she said. “I try to bring back the spirit of the community action program and its objectives.

She envisions a welcome center, where a new member of the community – potentially a refugee or immigrant – has a place to go to access and be referred to services.

“There’s a lot of potential,” she said. “It’s an asset to the community.

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