Tuesday, October 28, 2008

KRM Volunteer Update

After our big rush of arrivals in September, things are finally settling down now. We have helped everyone to get their initial appointments, start English classes, and attend resettlement orientation. The next focus is finding jobs so please let me know of any employment opportunities available in Lexington.

On November 24 (the Monday before Thanksgiving), KRM will need volunteers to help deliver Thanksgiving baskets. We will be assigned a time to pick up the baskets from God's Pantry Warehouse in the morning and will spend the day distributing the baskets. We have 27 baskets to distribute to refugee families, but we will also need to spend time explaining how to cook the Thanksgiving items. If you are tutoring a family, it would be great if you could incorporate this into your lessons. If you are interested in participating, please email amanda.mullikin@gmail.com.

We are also going to be printing Christmas greeting cards this year as a fundraiser. If you give a donation to KRM, we will send you a designated amount of Christmas Cards. The cards cost about $2 to make so please make sure your donation is more than the cost of the cards you request. Spend your money wisely and support a good cause while also buying all your Christmas cards. If you are interested, please send me an email (amanda.mullikin@gmail.com).

I want to take time and say thank you to all our volunteers and all the work that you do. THANK YOU!

Amanda Mullikin
KRM Lexington
Adult Services Coord.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

KRM Volunteer Training Opportunity

KRM is hosting an ESL workshop for our English tutors.

Date: Tuesday, October 21st
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: Maxwell St. Presbyterian Church
Agenda: Learn more about ESL teaching methodology (what works and what doesn't), discuss new ideas and resources, and share your experiences with the group.
Instructors: Carolyn Hackworth, Carnegie Center ESL Teacher & Dr. Kristen Perry, UK Professor & KRM Volunteer ESL Teacher.
Contact: Amanda Mullikin at 255-0303 if you are interested in attending.

KRM Fundraiser--Screening of "The Ordinary Radicals"

One Horizon is graciously hosting a fundraiser for KY Refugee Ministries.

Date: Thursday, October 16th
Time: 7:00-10:00 pm
Location: KY Theatre in Lexington
Cost: Tickets are $ 7.50

Program: Screening of "The Ordinary Radicals" by Jamie Moffett, KRM Director Barbara Kleine will speak about what's going on in the refugee community in Lexington and how you can get involved, then Director Jamie Moffett will host a Q&A session.

100% of the proceeds will go to KRM. Please come show your support.

Movie Info: In the margins of the United States, there lives a revolutionary Christianity. One with a quiet disposition that seeks to do "small things with great love," and in so doing is breaking 21st Century stereotypes surrounding this 2000 year old faith. "The Ordinary Radicals" is set against the modern American political and social backdrop of the next Great Awakening. Traveling across the United States on a tour to promote the book "Jesus for President", Shane Claiborne and a rag-tag group of "ordinary radicals" interpret Biblical history and its correlation with the current state of American politics. Sharing a relevant outlook for people with all faith perspectives, director Jamie Moffett examines this growing movement. As Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw write in the book, "This is not a set of political suggestions for the world; this is about invoking and embodying the alternative. All of this is an invitation to join a peculiar people- those with no king but God, who practice jubilee economics and make the world new. This is not the old-time religion of going to heaven; this is about bringing heaven to the world." Featuring Interviews with: Becky Garrison, Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, John Perkins, Brooke Sexton, Michael Heneise, St. Margret Mckenna, Logan Laituri, Zack Exley, Aaron Weiss and many more Ordinary Radicals.

Torn Apart by War, Kept Apart by Suspicion

By Steve Lannen

Losi Grodya works two jobs, has a driver's license, is working on a community college degree and is readying to take her U.S. citizenship exam.

Despite all she has accomplished since settling in Lexington as a refugee from her native Democratic Republic of Congo nearly six years ago, she feels helpless when she talks on the phone with her daughters. Their home has been a Rwandan refugee camp for the past four years.

”They ask me when they are coming. Why is it taking so long? They tell me since I am in America, I must be able to do something to get them to come, but I've tried everything I can,“ Grodya said. ”I just want them to come here so we can all be together again. ... But I can't even do that.“

Her daughters, who as of late January were approved by U.S. officials to join her in Lexington as refugees, have seen their cases caught up in a post-9/11 provision in the Patriot Act that bars people from entering the United States if suspected of aiding a terrorist group.

Known as the material support bar, the law was also at the center of a high-profile case in April in which a Transylvania University student faced deportation to his native Sudan. Authorities said that because Lino Nakwa was kidnapped as a 12-year-old and spent a month in the training camp of a rebel group considered terrorists by the U.S. government, he was ineligible for a green card.

After a letter-writing campaign and intervention by Kentucky elected officials in Washington, Nakwa's case is waiting to be reviewed by Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

After months of delay, Grodya learned last week that her daughters are suspected of providing material support to a terrorist group. But she doesn't know precisely what they are suspected of doing.

Grodya's five daughters have shared stories not of complicity, but of kidnapping and rape in a country torn apart by decadelong conflict, she said. She fears they have not told her the worst, but that what they have said ”is now being turned against them.“

”We never took part in any of those conflicts. We just wanted to go somewhere where we would live in peace. We didn't want to fight nobody. We never killed,“ Grodya said Wednesday during an interview at the Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

War inside Congo began a decade ago and involved eight nations and multiple armed groups. As the country's security and stability deteriorated, tribal conflicts within the war also broke out, including one largely over land between the Hema and the Lendu in northeastern Congo. The conflict worsened with meddling by the nearby Ugandan army. Large numbers of men, women and children were massacred.

”Lendu were coming and using a strategy to scare you, and if you left they would take everything. If you stayed, they would kill you,“ said Grodya, an ethnic Hema.

In February 2001, she fled her hometown of Bunia with her children to live with her father in nearby Mahagi. After leaving she learned that her husband, who stayed behind, had been killed later that day.

The violence followed her.

Grodya and her then-young son, Olivier, went to the market to look for food. The family had not eaten for two days. She left her daughters at home.

Big guns from the rebel groups thundered in the distance. Word spread that the Lendu were at the airport and moving toward town. Panic set in and everyone scattered.

It was too dangerous for Grodya to return home.

Grodya heard many people from Bunia and Mahagi had fled to Uganda so she went there to look for her family, but she didn't find them. From there she went to a refugee camp in nearby Rwanda.

She asked to cross back into Congo to look for her daughters, but the Red Cross and United Nations High Commission on Refugees staff ­wouldn't allow her to return because the war was still raging.

For two years she and her son stayed in Rwanda, but she had no contact with her other children.

”I didn't have any news about my family. I wanted to go to see if they were alive or not. They said no, I can't,“ she recalled.

It wasn't until 2003, after she arrived in Lexington as a refugee, that she was able to acquire a cellular phone and contact her daughters. Her sister in Rwanda found relatives back home who said some of her children were back in Bunia, taken in by some Jehovah's Witnesses.

But she also learned of horrors.

She learned one of her daughters had been kidnapped at the age of 14 by rebels and forced to serve as a soldier. She eventually escaped during a training exercise in the bush.

Another daughter was taken by a Hema rebel soldier, who impregnated her when she was 18. ”It wasn't her choice. She was raped,“ Grodya said.

She still doesn't know the extent of what happened to all of her daughters. The younger ones ”don't want to tell me everything that happened. There are many things they don't want to talk about,“ Grodya said.

Many people have been caught up in similar cases due to the material support bar, said Kerri Talbot, associate director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington, D.C.

A law was passed in December to grant immigration officials more discretion in applying the material support provision.

Still, ”there are many cases where people by no means would be considered a terrorist by a layperson, but because the law was so overly broad they were caught up in that definition and unable to immigrate to the States,“ Talbot said.

Rep. Ben Chandler's office has become aware of Grodya's case. A Chandler spokeswoman said the office is looking at ways it can help.

An e-mail provided to the Herald-Leader by Grodya showed that a Chandler constituent-services representative received a vague response from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, saying the cases are ”on hold pending a more detailed legislative definition of material support of a terrorist organization.“

That means the USCIS office in Ken­ya is waiting for the ­USCIS office in Washington to tell it how to apply the law.

USCIS in Washington ”should basically get it together and apply that law fairly and allow people to immigrate to the United States if they have a case they have already proven and are not guilty of any wrongdoing,“ Talbot said.

A spokeswoman with the USCIS said Friday that she could not discuss specific cases, citing privacy issues.

Grodya still doesn't know exactly what evidence the government has to suspect her daughters of aiding terrorist groups.

”They're not criminals. They have nothing to do with them. They were victims of all this stuff and now they are going to punish them,“ she said.

Reach Steve Lannen at (859) 231-1328 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1328.

*KRM is still working to help reunite the family.