Louisville: A melting pot - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville: A melting pot

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - Most don't realize that Louisville has become one of the most popular destinations in the United States to take in refugees. Spend a Saturday afternoon at the Iroquois library and you'll find out just how diverse our city really is and just how challenging coming to America can be.

They come from China, Cuba, Iraq, The Republic of Congo, Uzbekistan, Darfur and Sudan for this week's "English Conversation Class" at the Iroquois Library.

“The basic need that everyone has is of course, English,” explained Sophie Maier, Louisville Free Public Library Immigrant Services Librarian.

Most in this room are trying to learn English so they can get a job and support their families.

Volunteers hold flashcards to teach the English alphabet, but more importantly, they listen.

“To actually sit down one-on-one with someone and hear their story as to what led them to Louisville,” she said.

Most come from war torn countries. Some, like Shakir Ali, speak more fluent English.

“I came with my family, my wife, my disabled son, my daughter,” Ali said.

He served as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq and moved here a year ago.

“In the past we have been higher as a county in terms of refugee resettlement - higher than New York City ,” Maijer said.

But why Louisville? The city is home to two prominent refugee agencies, Kentucky Refugee Ministries and the Kentucky Office for Refugees run by Catholic Charities.

“Louisville is known as a yes city. United Nations Commission on Refugees will broker where to send refugees and Louisville takes quite a few,” explained Gail Henson, Bellarmine International Communications Professor.

She requires her students to volunteer here.

“It's important our students develop cultural sensitivity,” she said.

“They have three to six months from which we give them a bit of help to go out find a job, master the language and then they're on their own,” Maijer said.

It's a melting pot in the Derby City of people looking for a fresh start, as difficult as that might be.

“I not regret that I'm here in Louisville. I like the people in Louisville. The city is nice and I am happy that I am here,” Ali said.

Volunteers are needed to keep the English Conversation Class going. For information contact the Iroquois Library Branch at 502-574-1611.

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