Record number of refugees in the Bluegrass

Political unrest and economic oppression in foreign lands forces many of the residents to seek asylum in other countries and in the end they become refugees.

In the last several years central Kentucky has opened its arms to hundreds of those refugees seeking a better life and one that is free.

As WKYT's Amber Philpott reports one group helping to resettle refugees is seeing a surge in people looking for a new start in the Bluegrass.

Everyday household chores hold new meaning for the Sharma family, it's a new way of life for them.

"I am a refugee, I was 14 years old when I left Bhutan," said Ganja Sharma.

Sharma now calls Lexington home.

He and his wife have been here almost a year, far from the refugee camp they left in Nepal.

Sharma says life was hard and freedom was something he never knew for 18 years.

"We were not allowed out, we had to get permission to go out from camp to leave," said Sharma.

A wedding photo is one of the only things the Sharma's brought with them to this country when they fled persecution for their children.

The Sharma's are part of a growing number of refugees seeking a life here in central Kentucky.

"In Lexington right now we are mostly seeing refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Bhutan and Nepal," said Anne Marie Vaughn with Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

Vaughn works with the KRM housed in Arlington Christian Church in Lexington.

It works to resettle refugees both in Lexington and Louisville.

"We are their home country because as a refugee they are not welcome in their country where they were born," said Vaughn.

In the past year Kentucky Refugee Ministries helped settle 437 people, 270 in Lexington and the numbers are growing.

"Lexington is now actually the third largest resettlement site for Congolese in the U.S. right after Houston and Phoenix," said Vaughn.

Resettlement isn't cheap, the money comes from the State Department.

Kentucky Refugee Ministries receives about $925 dollars as well as an additional $200 to total a little over a thousand dollars per person to get them settled.

"From the very beginning when they step foot at Blue Grass Airport we are there to show them the comfort and hospitality that they haven't seen in a long time."

The first step is to get families like the Sharma's a home and then self sufficiency.

"Here I can live independently, I have a job and I'm very proud to say that I have a job," said Sharma.

The blessing of a job and providing for his family is Ganja Sharma's little piece of freedom right here in the bluegrass.

Kentucky Refugee Ministries says its seeing an unprecedented number of more large families and people with medical needs being resettled.

Refugees often re-settle where other family members are already living and for many Kentucky is a popular place to choose.

The process for a refugee to enter the United States can take months even years and individuals must go through a series of interviews before being accepted.

Eventually people who seek refuge here can apply for citizenship.

Kentucky Refugee Ministries is always looking for help from the community in the form of donations.

KRM is having a "Rockin Round the World" fundraiser May 31at the the Round Barn at Red Mile.

The event will feature music from Tee Dee Young and include dinner, silent auction and beer tasting.

For more information on this event and how you can help Kentucky Refugee Ministries please see their website link below.

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