Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Beatrice, staff member of KRM, shares her story about her daughter Nancy who is still in the DRC. We all hope that Nancy will be in Kentucky very soon!

Read Story Here

A lot of Thanksgiving!

This year KRM invited clients to share in a meal of Thanksgiving. Dishes from Iraq, DR Congo, Bhutan, and Kentucky graced the table. It was a time share stories, connect with old friends, and remember all there is to be thankful about in this world. These people who have experienced extreme hardship are often the most thankful!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Here is an article from Tri Bikram Adhikari who is a refugee journalist who recently resettled in Lexington from Nepal. Tri is orignially from Bhutan and has great insight about political and refugee issues in this region. In this post, he shares about his arrival at Bluegrass Airport. Enjoy!

“You Start Again”

When I landed in Bluegrass Airport of Lexington city of Kentucky state of USA in 3rd of July, I felt that I would be puzzled and lost along with my family in the complete new place. But this thought was removed from my mind when an American guy who was accompanying with me in the same plane assisted me to go in the direction where there was exit (in airport).By this, I came to know that many Americans are helpful and supportive. At the exit, my brother along with Karissha and Mallisha (case workers of Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM)) were giving us a warm welcome after noticing the IOM bag carried by us. The caseworkers in the first meeting were too helpful. With their pleasant smile and talks, they drove us to towards our new house.
My new house is completely different from the refugee slum where we stayed for sixteen years in Nepal. There are two bed rooms, sitting room, kitchen and two bathrooms. In particular, we are kept in an apartment where we should pay the rent. There are fifteen apartments in three storey building located in the residential area without any crowd, pollution and disturbances. In Kitchen, we have refrigerator, oven run by electricity and many other household and kitchen used items which we have not got in Nepal. In this context, I remember the bygone days about the refugee hut made up of bamboo, plastic, thatch and mud. It is to point out here that we were hardly served with products and vegetables with more vitamins by the agencies while remaining in the camp. I remember even the moment when we burn the briquette made of coal that used to produce lots of smoke which pollutes the environment and affects the health of the people and also the moment we repair the hut which was difficult and with hard labor. In times of rain and wind, it would be troublesome and difficult to take care of the hut. This all the difficulties are now kicked off as we are in a good house with a fine and suitable environment for housing. Even the vehicles run hither and thither in the streets, there is not much sound and air pollution here.
The main fact of this place it “Time is Money”. Without following time. There will be no penny in the wallet. Public buses are operated in time and follows time. If a bus is left, it will be late for work. Everybody here strictly follows the time. So that, they earn money. Another thing is that every people are conscious of their duties and responsibilities and also equally working for their rights. Everyone is on their own work and there will be a busy time. In this place, when I stepped in the transit centre of the bus named “Lextran”, I find many peoples who have arrived here from different parts of the world. There are African, Asian, European, Mexican, Korean,… people so that I discovered that this place is full of immigrants.
There are only fourteen Bhutanese families resettled here in Lexington city where I am residing. There are refugees from Iraq, Congo, Mexico, and other places also in my place. Peoples are from different refugee slums and are stepping ahead for learning American culture and starting a new life. The main intention of all the refugees is to cope up with this culture very soon. Everybody are asked to go English as a Second Language(ESL) class to improve English by KRM and every Bhutanese adults are going for that. Some Youths who want to learn more English are starting their new class of language in Bluegrass Community and Technical College(BCTC) where there will be one and half hours session for four days in a week. Every Friday, KRM also gives two hours Cultural Orientation classes on the new place for all the refugees for eight weeks after their arrival. Children under 18 have started their new session in the school from August 12. Many of the refugees are jobless due to economic recession in USA. Most of all refugees are searching for the jobs for their better future in USA.

You can read more posts from Tri at his blog "The Unheard Voice."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

World Refugee Day 2009

On June 20th, KRM clients, staff, volunteers and community partners met at Woodland Park to celebrate World Refugee Day. Refugees from Iraq, Bhutan, DRC, and Republic of Congo joined together to express their gratitude and happiness. To celebrate, we ate an eclectic meal of different dishes from the represented countries. Sawyer's also donated chicken sandwiches to compliment the potluck side dishes. After eating, music, dancing and games ensued. Cornhole was a big hit that everyone enjoyed playing and watching. It was a great day and great way to build community among refugees and native Lextonians. Check out the pictures!

Monday, April 27, 2009

For Iraqis, Terror is Replaced by Financial Woe

By Steve Lannen - slannen@herald-leader.com

Faced with ongoing war and death threats, millions of Iraqis fled their homeland in recent years. During the past 18 months, some Iraqi families have settled in Kentucky, and more continue to arrive every week or so.They come not only seeking refuge from the kidnappings and sectarian killings, but they bring with them the expectation of an America full of jobs and promise — the America that they have been told so much about.

Their arrival here, however, coincides with the massive economic recession, and their hopes for better lives in the United States are severely blunted by economic hardship. They stand among the thousands of Americans who are unemployed.

Some Iraqis have found part-time work or manual labor. But it's a far cry from their work back home as doctors, teachers or entrepreneurs. Plus, their lack of English skills and work experience in the United States forces them to start at the bottom with low-wage jobs. At least one returned to work in Iraq with the U.S. military as an interpreter and now sends money to his family in Lexington. They might be safer, but the Iraqis here have new worries.

They don't know how they will pay rent. And they wonder how they're going to feed their children.

In recent years, more than 95 percent of refugees were employed after four months in Lexington. In this recession, "that's just not realistic now," said Barbara Kleine, Kentucky Refugee Ministries director. "I think the expectation is once they got here, things would be better, and they're not."

Here are stories from a few of Lexington's Iraqi refugees.


Raghad Abdul Majeed

The bullet left in the envelope outside Raghad Abdul Majeed's home was the sign.

Majeed's husband was already dead, carjacked and killed for his money in lawless Baghdad. Now this was a sign that Majeed's family was a target. They were Shias living in Dora, a no-longer-welcoming Sunni neighborhood.

It was time to go.

Months later, when it became clear she would move to the United States, Majeed attended an orientation meeting for refugees in Syria. It will be easy to find jobs in America, she was told.

Since her arrival last May, however, that has not been the case. Her professional training as an Arabic teacher didn't count for much here because she could not speak English. In the dreadful economy, she applied for jobs that didn't require language skills, but she encountered Americans with college degrees applying for the same work.

She landed a couple of odd jobs.

After a week as a hotel maid, she was fired for not working fast enough. Then, her temporary job at the Amazon.com shipping center stopped soon after the holidays were over.

"We had imagined America to be the safest place for our children and that it would be the best place to find a job. (But) the lack of a job is a kind of threat. It's not a safe situation if you don't have a job here," Majeed said.

Socially, Majeed has suffered, too. She left her parents behind in Iraq, and everyone in America is always busy. She and other Iraqi refugees in her apartment complex do their best to help one another — they share meals or advice on how to act with Americans.

"We have not adjusted to this life yet ... Each of us helps each other," she said.

When the initial money from Kentucky Refugee Ministries ran out, food stamps paid for meager groceries. Walnut Hill Church paid her phone bill and utilities. Still, it didn't alleviate her frustration.

Majeed, 34, yearns to work in a school again to teach Arabic and earn a paycheck big enough to support her two daughters.

Sometimes she visits Cassidy Elementary, where her youngest daughter attends, to use the Internet. She visits teachers, hoping they could one day work together.

For now, that dream is replaced by the need to hold a job — any job that will pay the rent and monthly expenses.

Majeed recently began working full-time at a retirement home, doing laundry and other chores as she cares for the elderly.

"It's not just my problem. It's the problem of all the Iraqi families here," she said. "If someone told me these are the obstacles I would find in America, I wouldn't have come ... I would return to Iraq."

Subbhi Abbas Ali

Each weekday, 64-year-old Subbhi Abbas Ali rises at 5 a.m., takes two LexTran buses to Goodwill on New Circle Road and then rides with his boss to the tack-and-leather shop on Paris Pike.

As horses trot nearby, he sits at one of two machines used to cut and stitch leather.

Ali earns $9 an hour, toiling on a machine that is not unlike the one he remembers in Baghdad. However, in Iraq, there were 40 machines in the factory — and he was the factory's owner.

Ali's decision to move his family to the United States began when he was kidnapped in Baghdad more than two years ago.

Militia members loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr came to Ali's home looking for money, he said. They would get it by asking for ransom. They threw a hood over Ali's face, put him in a car and drove him to the northern town of Husseiniya on Baghdad's outskirts.

For four days, Ali was held blindfolded. He recalls being drugged. Ali thinks the pills caused hallucinations and made him more compliant to his captors. When he was told to call his family, he recalled saying, "Just give them what they need. Give them money. Give them cars. Just give them what they want so they let me go."

They did.

Ali's captors released him with the order to "just leave everything." If he ever opened his business again, they vowed to bomb it.

So now, instead of fashionable women's shoes and red leather purses, Ali makes custom leather bridles and bits for horses. The business trips to Germany and Hong Kong are no more. He makes trips to the grocery store and returns to a two-bedroom apartment off Richmond Road, rather than three houses and a farm in the Iraqi countryside.

Ali's family lived for more than a year in Syria, relying on the support of a relative. Then, in July, they landed in Lexington. It took nearly six months for him to find work.

Several days a week, he and his wife, Aaeda Ibrihm, struggle through English lessons. He carries a vocabulary list with him at work to better understand what is asked of him.

Despite the torture and loss he endured, he said it is his "good luck" to live in the United States. His younger son and two daughters live with him; two daughters remain in Iraq, and his oldest son is in Syria.

"I love to study, but now I am an old man," he said. "The thought is for my children."

All he wants is for his oldest son and his family to receive a visa to come live with him. Ali is fearful that his son — even though he is in Syria — could be targeted by the same people who kidnapped him.

"When I work," Ali said, "it's him I think about."


Akkram Kareem

In Baghdad, Akkram Kareem managed a jewelry store. For this, people assumed he had a lot of money.

So he tried to hide his job as best he could.

He altered his route to work. He took public transportation instead of driving his car. He even moved to a different house in the neighborhood when he was sure his secret was out.

In a country without laws and full of desperate people, he was a marked man.

"We didn't know who was our enemy," Kareem recalled.

In early 2006, armed men came to his home looking for him.

He wasn't there, but his grown nephew was.

There were two gunshots — one hit Kareem's nephew in the leg.

When Kareem came home, he found his injured nephew. He took him to the hospital. While Kareem and his nephew were away, the men returned to the house and roughed up his wife and mother. They demanded that his wife call Kareem's cell phone.

"Give us your money, or we will kill all of your family," they said.

Kareem says he gathered the gold that was in the shop, about a kilogram, and melted it down. It was worth about $40,000. He arranged for it to be delivered to an outdoor market, as instructed. Leave Iraq or die, were the last instructions.

He fled with his wife, son and daughter to neighboring Syria in February 2006.

Australia was where he hoped to settle his family, but he was offered a place in the United States.

"Anywhere besides Iraq. I just want to be in a safe place," he replied.

The four of them, plus an infant daughter, arrived in Lexington on July 24.

Here, there is cool weather, electricity and water that runs on cue. Kareem's children can play outside and take a bus to Cassidy Elementary School.

"It's much better than I thought it would be," he said.

But Kareem's forehead furrows when asked about money. For three months, the rent and utilities were paid, but that ended months ago. Local churches have helped pay some of the bills since.

He knows he is expected to get a job to pay for it all, but nothing has panned out.

Iraqis who were in Lexington several months before him still don't have jobs, he said.

"How will I get a job to continue this beautiful life?" he asks.


By the numbers

■ About 14,000 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States in 2008, which remains a small fraction of the millions displaced by ongoing war and sectarian violence in Iraq.

■ Since September 1997, about 350 Iraqis have settled in Kentucky. The largest number, about 220, are in Louisville, followed by Lexington and Bowling Green, according to statistics kept by the Kentucky Office for Refugees at Catholic Charities in Louisville. About 50 have settled in Lexington. Thirty more are expected to arrive in the coming months.

■ The placement of nearly all refugees who arrive in Lexington is handled by Kentucky Refugee Ministries, one of about 350 volunteer agencies nationwide contracted with the U.S. State Department to coordinate refugee housing and settlement. Initially, a few hundred dollars from the State Department plus food stamps and donations from churches are cobbled together to fund a refugee household, but the expectation is that the family will be self-supporting within a few months.

How you can help

Contact Kentucky Refugee Ministries, 201 East Maxwell Street, Lexington, Ky. 40508; (859) 226-5661.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Beautiful Reunion

Losi Grodya has been separated from her daughters for the past six years. This week they will finally arrive in Lexington to be reunited with their mother and start a new life. You may remember Losi from an Lexington Herald-Leader article written in October. This article was written to raise awareness about Losi's situation.

Losi is a refugee from the Congo who now has American citzenship. Over six years ago in the Congo, Losi and her son went to the market to buy some food. While they were shopping, their village was attacked by rebels. Losi and her son had to flee thus separting Losi from her daughters who had stayed at home. After Losi arrived in Lexington, she was able to find out what happened to her daughters and to discover their location.

Losi applied for her children to join her in America, but for no explainable reason, the applications kept getting denied. Year after year, Losi kept waiting to see her children again. Finally that day is coming! We are so happy for Losi and her daughters to be reunited. Thank you to all the people who helped make this reunion possible!

Lexington's First Monthly Social Innovation Forum

KRM wants to pass along info about an event this Thrusday. It is the
Lexington's First Monthly Social Innovation Forum and KRM will give a small presentation and have booth set up for people to learn more about our organization.

The forum will also feature the creators of the Academy Award Nominee War Dance,
Sean and Andrea Fine, and an escaped child soldier, Dominic.

The event is on Thursday, March 26th at 6:00 pm at the Old Tarr
Distillery on 899 Manchester St.

Everyone is welcome and entry is
free, but they ask that people please RSVP to ncryder@gmail.com.

Here is a link to a flier about the event. http://www.globalgain.org/WarDance_forWeb4.pdf

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MLK, Jr. Day 2009

Kentucky Refugee Minstries is participating in the MLK, Jr. Service Day.

KRM will be open from 10 am to 7 pm to host a "Welcome Home" fundraiser for newly arrived refugees. We will accept the following items to warmly greet clients by furnishing their apartments with the following items. Please only donate new or gently used items.

1. Pots and Pans
2. Can Openers
3. Cutting Knives
4. Silverware
5. Broom & Dustpan
6. Mop & Bucket
7. Unused Cleaning Supply Items (washing detergent, all purpose cleaner, dish soap, sponges, etc.)
8. Trash Cans
9. Alarm Clocks
10. Umbrellas
11. Unused Toiletry Items (soap, shampoo, deodarant, toothpaste, lotion, etc.)
12. Iron and Ironing Board
13. Vacuum cleaners
14. Booster seats & Car seats
15. Technology Items (radio, computer, TV) *Only if they work.
16. Linens and Towels

We do not accept any clothing due to limited space, but you can donate clothing items to Goodwill and ask that Kentucky Refugee Ministries receive the credit. This allows new refugee clients to pick out clothes that are their size when they first arrive and credit our account.

The above items are listed in order of priority. The higher the item, the more we need it.

Thank you in advance for any donations you can provide!

Also don't forgot about the Volunteer Workshop on January 27th at 6:00 pm. It will be held at the Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church and should last about an hour. The topic will be "Respecting Culture" and former refugees will share information about their own culture as well as "DOs and DON'Ts". Please RSVP to krmlexington@gmail.com by Friday, January 23rd to reserve a spot. Hope to see you there!