Dr. Joan Mueller serves as the volunteer Executive Director of Project Welcome Sudanese Refugee Community—an organization that she founded in 2002. Developed to respond to desperate needs of children in the Sudanese community. Project Welcome now funds a full time Social Services Director, as summer school, summer math and vocabulary camps, in-home tutoring, at-school tutoring, and an after-school homework club. Benchmarks measuring the program’s success are overwhelmingly impressive:
The Project has raised more than $70,000 to pay for airline tickets—Sudanese refugees have to sign promissory notes paying back their airline fare to come to America. This debt is between $4,000-$5,000 for a family of six and affects credit, the ability to find housing, transportation, etc. Numerous “runner” cars have been purchased for families who need transportation for work.
Health and human services forms are processed for housing, food stamps, energy assistance, and Medicaid. Five Project Welcome families now own their own homes. Four more families are eligible for and have applied for a Habitat for Humanity home or rent-to-own programs.
Dr. Mueller designs individualized educational programming for each child. Project Welcome children participate in the Project Welcome Summer school, math camps and vocabulary camps keeping these children reading and off the streets during the summer months. Dr. Mueller coordinates a network of hundreds of volunteers to fund and staff this program. Dr. Mueller does not have an operating budget or a corporate sponsor for this program. She operates entirely through donations and through small grants.
When asked how she manages all this and her full-time professorship at Creighton University, Sr. Joan simply says: “Without Project Welcome, these children would be at grave risk. We cannot lose this first generation of Sudanese children to poverty and violence.”