My New Kentucky Home

Stories and photographs from Kentucky's Resettled Refugees: These photographs are part of a gallery exhibit traveling around the South.

Do you feel well accepted by the Danville community?
”We are alright here. If you go out and look for trouble you will get it. But if you don’t you will be fine.”

If you could give one piece of advice for one person in your same position what would it be?
”Well first of all I would tell them, America is not Africa.”

“I am from Syria. You know that I have a big war in my country. And in the moment there is a great deal of fighting. That is why I left.

Everything in the start, is difficult. But with some help, maybe it will be easy. You know most refugees have technical skills and I hope that organizations like KRM can help us go to technical schools here. If I go to technical schools, maybe I can work with my job [that I had in Syria]. For example, if I go to School, I may be able to work with my job as an electrician.”

“I am from Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan when someone is a refugee and comes from another country and doesn’t have any money, you can get money to go to school, to university. It’s not fair here because we don’t have money to go to school here. In Afghanistan I was in university, my brother was in university. But here, I must work. I can’t go to university, go to study. It is too expensive. This is a big problem for the young generation. All of you would be in university in our country. We don’t have these programs here. This is a big problem for us.”

What is your home country?

“Syria. We feel more relaxed here and we feel that we can actually be safe. There I was scared for my young ones being shipped off to the army or the army coming and taking them. Here we feel a lot more relaxed, safe and secure.”

What was your happiest moment in the U.S.?

“How they greeted us in the airport. Everywhere we go we find people that greet us with kindness and open arms.

My advice to other Syrian refugees is to and apply to get picked by America. They greet you in America better than our parents do back home.”

Why did you leave Iran?

“The Presidency in Iran was not good. There was not freedom of speech, freedom of religion, like the religion back there was first. Many people changed their religion and I’m one of them, I changed my religion.

I am happy that I am living with my children, one daughter and one son. I am happy that I have freedom of speech and freedom of religion and that my kids are free to choose any religion that they want. Religion does not come first and I am happy because of that. I am free.”

“I am an ESL teacher.”

How long have you been here?

“Six fabulous years. The cool story was I was in cherry hall and I smelled food (laughs) so I went walking to find the smell. And I went to the bottom of the building and found all these amazing international students and people who looked nothing like me. And all these beautiful languages. And I went to the first American person that I witnessed and I said, ‘what is this beautiful world down here?’ and he said ‘well this is ESL.’”

What has been one of the hardest parts of your job?

“It’s that you can’t provide everyone with their needs. And it’s not even that they always ask, it’s that you know them and recognize them and you can’t always do what you need to or want to do for them."

There’s just so much they [refugees] don’t understand which causes them to have a bad stigma attached to them in the community. But they just don’t know. So that’s the hard part. Finding enough time and resources to help give them everything they need and to educate the whole community on what they are missing out by having a negative attitude toward the refugee community. They need to see what they can give and are giving back to the community and what more they can if you take time to have a group of people to dedicate time to help them.”

Where are you from?

“I am from the Congo. The war broke out in the Congo when I was one and my family and I took refuge in Tanzania.

I am so grateful to be living in Kentucky, it is a good place.”

If you could give one piece of advice?

“I can tell them, it is a good place to live in America, if you need anything, you can do what you need to do. There are jobs, there are good people, and yeah, it is a good place to live in America.”

“I was born in Bhutan and I came to Nepal as a refugee and I came here and it is a very wonderful life here. I want to give thanks to that. My life is much much better here.”  Do you feel accepted by people in Kentucky?  “I like Kentucky very much. I am very excited with people because they are so nice and friendly.”

“I was born in Bhutan and I came to Nepal as a refugee and I came here and it is a very wonderful life here. I want to give thanks to that. My life is much much better here.”

Do you feel accepted by people in Kentucky?

“I like Kentucky very much. I am very excited with people because they are so nice and friendly.”

How long were you in the refugee camp?

“Almost 22 years.”

Why did you leave your home country?

“My country of origin, a small country from Central Africa, was not a good place. There was violence.

There have been so many challenges because if you are in the refugee camp you can even forget the date and the day to day, the time just slips away. If you want to go outside it is not allowed, even to visit five kilometers from the settlement. You are not allowed to do any money generating activity so we are just there hopeless living without hope. There are so many challenges.”

Do you think that you have found hope int he US?

“Yes. Now I am free and I can go everywhere I want. I have hope.”

“I came from Burma to Nepal and from Nepal to the United States. I grew tired with the regime and the soldiers kept coming to catch me and I was frightened, so I left my home country.”

Are you happy here?
”Yes, I am so happy here.”


Why?
”Freedom.”

Why did you leave the DRC?

“I left the Congo because of the insecurity over there. Our country is not stable. There are so many things going on. That is why we decided to leave and go and seek refuge in Namibia.”

Was there a sense of community in the refugee camps?

“There we lived in a community. We were living together and doing things together. It was a big sense of community there. There is more sense of community here in Kentucky. When you live somewhere apart from your family but you find people here who speak your language, they are a part of you. You feel more comfortable when you are a part of them. I think that we are really together in the community and we support each other and the community is really strong.

For my fellow refugee, just be strong and courageous, do not give up. We know that there is the future out there. Just fight for your life and you will make it. As you left the refugee camp and you came in the US, you have made it to be here, and you can make it again.”

“I come from Afghanistan. before I had a job with Afghan parliament, a government advisor.

When we come to Kentucky over the past few months we’ve found some challenges. First of all, the medical clinics do not have interpreters so I cannot explain my disease or problems to him.

Everybody comes to us and asks where do you want to work? My work is not implementable here. The skill which I had in Afghanistan is not usable here. Here I can’t work.

They must provide for them [refugees] english courses as well as training. Refugees can learn english and they can learn some skills and then they will find work after six months training. Then they will no longer need the support of the government.”

“I am from Bhutan. before I came to Kentucky, America, I was working in school as a vice principal and next I was a student at a University.

I left my country because of political reason. I am too young, four years old. There is a civil war and they are going to kill us so we left the country.

I think: The most thing I like about Kentucky is that the people of Kentucky are very helpful and generous. The people who are here, like the policemen are bribe-less, they do not take any money. Here, they are fearless. They can help us.

We have to work hard here. It is the beginning of a new life. It will be more difficult if you are mentally trying to return to your country. To refugees, come here and enjoy America. Once again let me tell, Welcome to America.”

What is your home country?

“Burma, but I grew up in Thailand. I don’t have any memories of Burma. I left there [burma] when I was very little. Thailand, uh, it is a happy place, but it is just that you do not have the opportunity to go out and do everything you want. Like, education is very limited and work- we do not have much.

As a child it was very fun because you get to play with all of your family and friends. It was fun to me but as I grew up I didn’t want to stay there anymore because there was nothing for the future.”

What was the most challenging part of resettling in Kentucky?

“The new language and the culture that we had to learn. Financially too.”

“I left Cuba on November third and I had to cross seven countries to get here. I spent three months of my life in order to get here. I am not going to talk about violence, because I don’t like to remember that, the things that happened.”

Are you happy to be in the US?

“Of course. That has been my whole goal. It is better, and I know that it will get better in time. I am full of hope.”

If you had to give one piece of Advice to someone what would it be?

“Never stop trying. Follow your dreams. it doesn’t have to be anyones dreams just yours. Sometimes they take for granted things, but you don’t have to. You can bend your own destiny and forge your own way. Because when you are in those kind of situations when there is this moment where you think about your whole family and friends and you just say “that’s it” it’s hopeless for me. But if you really want this, you can do it.”

This Project was made possible thanks to a grant from Centre College.