Give Back MKE Live 2021: International Institute of Wisconsin

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In 2019, Lucien Masudi was living in the African nation of Burundi. His family were Congolese refugees, fleeing violence in their home. The United Nations Refugee Agency offered them the chance to move to America, but they wouldn’t be able to go together. Masudi left first, taking a flight to his new home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

When he arrived, he was met by staff from the International Institute of Wisconsin (IIW), an organization that works with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to resettle refugees. They had prepared housing for him, along with information about the city, employment and much more.

“It was not easy,” says Masudi. “I had to adjust to the culture, the food, everything.”

In the first 90 days a refugee or refugee family arrives in Milwaukee, the IIW will help them find housing, furnish their new homes and learn about aid programs.

Once a refugee is settled, the IIW’s goal is to help them transition and eventually become American citizens. To accomplish that, the IIW offers naturalization counseling, technical assistance, and medical, transportation and education support. It also provides translation and interpretation services to hospitals, schools and other organizations.

Photo courtesy of the International Institute of Wisconsin

Masudi went through that transition, and soon found a job as an interpreter. His family came over later that year from Burundi and joined him in Milwaukee.

“This is how Milwaukee began – immigrants coming here as newcomers to become part of the community,” says Al Durtka, the president and CEO of the IIW. “We have newcomers coming now that are going to contribute to the growth of Milwaukee, as we look to the future.”

In June of 2021, a case manager position opened at the IIW, and Durtka turned to Masudi to fill it. Having been through the refugee resettlement process from the other end, Masudi was in a perfect position to manage new refugees arriving in Milwaukee. He took the job and has been working at the IIW since. “It’s been good because I feel good helping people,” Masudi says. “We see people are coming here, and they need a lot of things, and the International Institute is providing that assistance.”

What We Do:

  • The International Institute of Wisconsin (IIW) offers refugee resettlement services, like providing safe and secure housing, medical and transportation support, and connection to legal and government resources.
  • The IIW offers interpretation and translation services for hospitals, schools and other organizations.
  • The IIW works to promote better intercultural relations in Milwaukee.

Where Your Money Goes:

  • The nonprofit Institute depends on donations to provide housing, furnishings and other needs and programs for refugees and immigrants.

1110 N. Old World Third St.,
Suite 420


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s December issue.

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