Open Path Resources -

The North American County and City Health Officials Organization Features OPR’s Work

Open Path Resources
Open Path Resources (OPR) is a Minnesota-based nonprofit that serves East African immigrant families and community-led centers by building their capacity to have greater influence upon public policies that affect their current and future interests. This month, NACCHO had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Mike Van Keulen and Imam Sharif A. Mohamed to talk a little bit about Open Path Resources and the amazing work they’ve been doing.
“OPR, a 501c3, was founded as an extension of the values expressed by their sister organization, Islamic Civic Society of America, which is a faith-based organization. Both organizations work to advance the community’s values and ideas,” said Van Keulen. “We use faith as an asset, not as a challenge or an obstacle for public health,” Mohamed chimed in. For example, many of the immigrant community members didn’t feel comfortable receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in a hospital, so Van Keulen and Mohamed had the brilliant idea of making the vaccine available within the mosque. This helped community members to feel safer and culturally cared for. At OPR, they focus on meeting their community where they are rather than forcing them out of their comfort zones.
What we found most inspiring was the way in which they approach organizing with their community members. OPR emphasizes a two-way line of communication- people need the right information so they can develop informed questions and opinions. They do everything they can to foster discussion rather than perpetuating an environment in which they are being told information and not allowed control over the development of their own wellbeing.

OPR invests in community influencers, trusted people within the community, to help spread information and resources. Rather than putting pressure on those individuals as liaisons, they simply serve as added tools within the community to add a layer of comfortability and connection. As Van Keulen and Mohamed noted, influencers tend to take a stance and see it through, making them even more trusted and consistent in their community.
Mohamed also emphasized the importance of acknowledging the whole of individuals and institutions. “We don’t see the patient as an individual-we see the patient as a whole, as a collective, as a part of the community.” This approach creates an atmosphere of respect and care, two things OPR is clearly make the center of their work.
The work OPR is doing is invaluable in their community. The relationships they’ve created and strengthened, the resources they’ve provided, and their dedication to the RIM community serve as a reminder of what compassion, trust, and passion can do for all people in society.



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