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COLUMBIA - Veterans United Foundation donated $28,000 to the City of Refuge to help mid-Missouri refugees. City of Refuge helps refugees and immigrants with their transition to the United States. The non-profit helps individuals learn English, go to the doctor, find jobs, learn how to drive, open bank accounts, get cell phone plans, find housing, and apply for college.

There are 8,000 refugees in mid-Missouri and the executive director of City of Refuge, Barry Stoll, said the non-profit has helped 1,000 people.

"A lot of the folks we work with have become citizens, but they still need assistance, through various levels of advancement that they're reaching in our community," Stoll said. "Whether it's buying a house through a USDA loan, buying a car, finding a place to fix their car. There's just so many things that they still need assistance with for years after they arrive here."

City of Refuge was able to expand its health care services to refugees in the Columbia area because of the donation. The funding allows the non-profit to add a full-time therapist.

"So many of them have experienced extreme trauma from situations that they come from," Stoll said.

City of Refuge said there are other mental health facilities in the community; however, refugees have experienced language and cultural barriers that prevent them from receiving care. The donation also helps the non-profit to provide interpreters to individuals to help with language barriers.

"Like with any of us, it's difficult to go into areas of mental, emotional issues unless you feel comfortable, unless you're able to open up completely and talk about them," Stoll said. "So as we build relationships with interpreters and with [refugees] through contact with them, that's going to really help get to the health issue more deeply."

City of Refuge now has interpreters for Burmese, Congolese, Arabic and other dialects from the Middle East and other parts of Asia and Africa.

The therapist will assist with doctor's appointments, checkups, maintenance of health benefits and immunizations. She will also provide mental health therapy and therapy for PTSD. 

"In the past few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of refugees who need health assistance along with their basic needs," Stoll said.

Veterans United Foundation Executive Director Greg Steinhoff said Veterans United believes in enhancing lives.

"We are pleased to help provide some of these essential services, such as medical care, to families in the Columbia area who otherwise may not have access to them," Steinhoff said.