It also took awhile to convince police officers that participating in Tapestry events, which include talking sessions where older refugees tell shocking stories about what their life was like before they arrived in the United States, would be worth their time, Vokal said. Now there is a waiting list of officers who want to join the seven-week sessions that start each spring and fall. There have been a total of five sessions so far.
"I've learned there were a lot of horrifying stories, but the parents didn't want to tell their kids because they didn't want them to have to think about what they went through," Vokal said.
Those stories are also one of the reasons Salim and other younger refugees have been convinced to participate. Like most young people, they thought the meetings would be boring, she said. But they've found out they could learn a lot about their African culture as well as their new neighbors in Mankato.
Police officers and other community members participating in the Tapestry events also tell stories about themselves. That's also created a bond between Salim and Vokal, which has evolved into dinners with each others families, summer outings and a growing respect between police officers and the refugee community.
"When you meet people and hear their stories, you see their hearts," Salim said. "I see Amy as a role model. She's opening the community up."
Vokal has similar praise for Salim, who became a Tapestry leader in training and has decided to start the process of becoming a volunteer police officer. Salim admits she used to be closed minded about other refugees and white Mankato residents. Now she's learned to listen more and wait to express her opinions about someone she doesn't know.