Helping Lincoln's refugee community

Photo Credit: Makayla Gill and Kailynn Jensen
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 08:52

The spirit of giving is an all-year feeling for one Husker group.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Medical Students United with Neighbors Across America (shortened as MUNA) has been gathering food donations for Lincoln refugees since summer 2020.

The registered student organization was founded by two chemistry (pre-med) majors—Makayla Gill and Kailynn Jensen. The two had always been looking for ways to give back to the community and even shared a Google Doc filled with all their ideas for changing the world.

As they were searching for volunteer opportunities last spring, they came across University of Nebraska Medical Center's MUNA chapter. They saw how the UNMC chapter was able to help others and knew they wanted to bring the program to Lincoln.

"We were just really inspired by the work that they were doing and how they were doing it in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," Makayla said.

So, Makayla and Kailynn got to work. They gathered the five members needed to form an RSO, set up interviews with local community centers, and started planning their first online fundraiser. After working throughout the summer on establishing the club, the group was able to organize their first food distribution for refugee families in the fall.

Since then, UNL MUNA has completed five distributions and fed over 100 families in the Lincoln area.

"It's taught me a lot about the different communities that I will be working with someday in the future...I really want to set pre-med students up with more cultural experiences," Kailynn said. "I come from a small town in Nebraska and didn't have the opportunity to get to know a lot of people of different cultures and ethnicities. MUNA sort of gives me the opportunity to just get to know these people but also give back to communities that I wouldn't normally interact with."