By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—The holidays have been a little more cheerful for members of Kentuckiana’s refugee community thanks to goods gathered by the IU Southeast School of Social Sciences and donated to Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM).
Each year, the School commits itself to a local charity. This year, the School “adopted” KRM, and sent out a call for needed items to the campus community.
The response was solid, with crock-pots, cleaning products, bed linens, school supplies and other essentials to help refugee families meet daily needs.
“KRM is different than other charities in that it tries to comprehensively meet all the refugees’ needs,” said Kelly Ryan, dean of the School of Social Sciences. “For many refugees, KRM is the main point of contact as they integrate into our community and seek assistance in learning English, getting a job, becoming a citizen and building a social support system.”
Over the past 27 years, KRM has helped more than 15,000 refugees build new lives in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky. For many fleeing war and persecution, this is not the first or the last stop on a difficult and perilous journey, but it is made easier through the efforts of volunteers like those at KRM. This year, KRM logged a record number of job placements, an important step toward self-sufficiency and prosperity. Once settled, refugees contribute strongly to community vitality, cohesion and economic uplift.
Beyond the donations, Ryan sees possibilities for volunteerism and service learning within the organization.
“KRM is a great place for students to get experience that translates into resume-building work,” Ryan said. “Volunteering to help refugees take citizenship test, learn English or navigate the area shows dedication that employers will take interest in.”
The School of Social Sciences initiative is not the first or only collaboration between the university and KRM. The Schools of Nursing and Education also work with the organization in the areas of community health and teaching diverse populations, respectively. The university has also hosted three “Super Saturday” events that bring high-achieving refugee youth to campus to learn about the resources and offerings of IU Southeast.
For Grenadier students who have volunteered with KRM or spent time in service-learning opportunities with the organization, the experience has been rewarding and, in some cases, defining.
“KRM gives students a unique window into the larger world,” Ryan said. “They can learn about different cultures and customs, but also about the difficulties in navigating a world they have come to know and possibly take for granted.”
Homepage photo: Dr. Kelly Ryan, dean of the School of Social Sciences, helps to load up donations for Kentucky Refugee Ministries.