Monday, November 2, 2009

Owensboro International Center will Welcome Refugees from Iraq

OWENSBORO, Ky. -- A Bowling Green nonprofit that relocates refugees has received federal approval to open a satellite office in Owensboro.

The Bowling Green International Center will begin relocating refugees to Owensboro later this year or early next year. The Messenger-Inquirer reports that officials from the international center and local volunteers have been working for more than a year to make the city a satellite location.

"It is so exciting," said Suzanne Rose, a local volunteer and associate English professor at Kentucky Wesleyan College. "I can't believe after all the waiting, here we are."

A site for the office has not been selected. Rose said she plans to meet with the Rev. Larry Hostetter, president of Brescia University, about placing the office in space the university owns.

Some Brescia students might also be working with the refugees, Hostetter said.

James Robinson, executive director of the international center, said he believes the organization will be resettling refugees by January.

"That will give us time to get organized," Rose said. "If we need to change anything, we'll have opportunity."

Robinson said the international center has a lot of ground work to do now that the satellite office has been approved by the federal government.

"We're in the helping profession," Robinson said. "The more places we can go and the more tools we can use to help people, then that's good. We want to extend help in every way we can. ... Owensboro gives us an extra vehicle to help more people."

Refugees are expected to come from Iraq and Myanmar, and volunteers have learned about the cultures of those countries. They will help refugees find housing, furniture and jobs, and help children enroll in local schools.

Refugees are given some money to help them get started, but they have to eventually pay back their travel expenses to the government.

Refugees are also required to go through extensive background checks before they are permitted to enter the country.

Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com