Explore Grant Report:
With the grant from the Brown Venture Launch Fund, many objectives were achieved last semester and over the winter break, including the completion of an internship with the Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM) in Lexington, Kentucky. KRM is the only resettlement agency within Lexington and serves thousands of Iraqi, Congolese, Bhutanese, and Cuban refugees. Despite having a small staff count of 20 members, the organization provides a myriad of services from ESL lessons to job acquisition classes to legal consultations. In between these services, there are sewing classes, primarily targeted at women, and refugee focus groups at a local high school in which members of the community can get together to share their experiences. The support and dedication from the staff manifests every day: case workers are constantly driving clients to health appointments; they meet new arrivals at the airport and sometimes, they act as babysitters for children whose parents are sitting in classes at the office. I’ve never seen more dedicated individuals.
However, even with their incredible progress and efficiency, there are still gaps that don’t seem to have been filled, particularly for youth. Perhaps, it’s due to a lack of resources. Perhaps, it’s due to a lack of time. Nevertheless, I observed that the one-on-one in-home tutoring program was quite small, consisting of only about 20 volunteers who meet with a refugee family once a week. I didn’t ask how many families were signed up to have a tutor, but I can’t imagine it being many, considering the small number of tutors. In addition, KRM didn’t seem to have many social services for youth. KRM has a youth programs coordinator, but perhaps due to the short duration that I was interning (2 weeks), I didn’t get to see much, especially since kids had already gone back to school. When I inquired one of the caseworkers about what I had observed, she agreed: KRM doesn’t focus on social services – after all, it’s a resettlement agency, not a youth development organization. She also mentioned that there is another after-school and summer program called FACE Time in Lexington that provides similar activities and through them, the gap may be filled.
With KRM being such a prominent organization in the lives of many refugees in Lexington, a supplemental program that caseworkers could refer refugee children to for mentoring, tutoring, and social enrichment would be exponential in ameliorating the resettlement process and therefore could make Exploring Heart a suitable program to bring into reality! However, with this new knowledge of FACE Time, it’s imperative to figure out exactly what services they provide in order to figure out what role Exploring Heart could take in the Lexingtonian community, if one at all. I shall be volunteering with FACE Time this summer in order to better understand the program. Let’s see what Lexington has to offer!