By Brian Arola | Mankato Free Press,
A growing immigrant population requires services to meet their needs.
That’s the mindset of Salman Fiqy, who opened Oasis Services in February for that very purpose.
“I noticed the immigrant community in Mankato is growing, and I thought we need to establish a services business that can speak in their own languages and reach out to them in the best way,” he said.
The young businessman, who speaks Somali, Arabic, Swahili and English, hopes his Hugo Building office becomes a one-stop shop for Mankato’s incoming refugees and immigrants, a place where they can enroll in health or auto insurance one day and navigate the complicated VISA applications the next.
Fiqy, a 2015 graduate from Minnesota State University, previously worked as a MNsure enrollment assistant. Describing himself as a risk taker, he said he felt the time was right to start his own venture earlier this year.
“I decided to take that challenge and see if I can succeed,” he said. “So far, so good.”
Originally from Somalia, Fiqy has kept busy spreading word of his business. He said he’s made contacts with area counties, Greater Mankato Growth, college campuses and halal stores.
Clients have started to roll in, but Fiqy hopes the interest gains even more steam as he adds more services. He hopes to eventually help recruit workers for businesses in need of qualified applicants.
“The immigrant community here in Mankato makes up a good population that can contribute, put something on the table and be productive,” he said. “That’s what I hope to see.”
Fiqy’s flyers also can be found outside the Lincoln Community Center’s Adult Basic Education program classes. Karen Wolters, program coordinator for Lincoln’s adult education program, said existing agencies do help refugees with citizenship applications, but much more help is needed.
“No one agency can do it all,” she said. “There’s so many people that need help.”
Some agencies can work with refugees, for instance, but not immigrants. Fiqy’s business will take all comers.
Wolters said insurance processes and citizenship paperwork may seem straightforward to people who grew up here. It’s understandably more challenging, however, when you factor in language barriers and unfamiliarity with the system.
“In our American system you have to know how to navigate the system,” she said. “We grow up navigating the system and it’s still difficult for us.”
Fiqy named language as one of the biggest barriers preventing immigrants and refugees from accessing services. His ability to speak four languages, then, is an asset he feels can help connect them to essential needs.
“I want to present myself as a helper and aider,” he said. “I’m trying to bridge the gap between immigrant communities and the community that lives here.”