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Dec. 1 target date for satellite office for refugees
[November 16, 2009]

Dec. 1 target date for satellite office for refugees

Nov 16, 2009 (Messenger-Inquirer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The Bowling Green International Center hopes to open its satellite office in Owensboro by Dec. 1.

Though an office hasn't been selected, Suzanne Rose, a local volunteer, will be meeting with Father Larry Hostetter, Brescia University's president, next week about potential office space, said James Robinson, executive director of the International Center.

He said the first group of refugees could be settled in Owensboro by Christmas. The refugees will probably come from Myanmar (formerly Burma).

The International Center works with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to bring refugees to the country.

"They're very excited for us to get started, and we are too," Robinson said. "It's going to be hectic (at) first. (We'll) start slow and gain momentum." Refugees are also expected to be relocated to Owensboro from Iraq. Robinson anticipates Owensboro will receive between 75 and 100 refugees in its first year as a satellite site.

The city received federal approval in late October to become a satellite office for the International Center.

A combination of International Center staff, interns and volunteers will operate the Owensboro office.

A full-time case manager might be added next year after more refugees have been relocated to Owensboro, Robinson said.

The International Center also plans on bringing its immigration office representatives to Owensboro once a week or once every other week.

Other programs the International Center will offer includes cross-cultural training where refugees can learn about local law enforcement and vice versa, and education on human trafficking.

The International Center sometimes serves victims of human trafficking.

Volunteers will help the refugees find housing, furniture and jobs. They will also help school-age children get enrolled in schools, and they help refugees get Social Security numbers and immunizations.

"The qualities we look for more than anything (in volunteers): If you say you're going to do it, do it," Robinson said. "Commit only to what you can do, and always communicate with us as much as possible." Robinson was scheduled to meet with local volunteers on Sunday. Volunteers are welcome to mentor refugees, but they also need to make sure the refugees learn to survive in the United States on their own.

The organization has been criticized because its volunteers only take refugees to the grocery a few times before having them go on their own. The International Center doesn't want refugees to become dependent on volunteers.

"The goal is to be self-sufficient within 90 days," Robinson said.

The refugees are given a little money to help them get started, but they have to eventually pay back their travel expenses to the government.

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

Beth Wilberding, 691-7307, [email protected] Box: To learn more about refugees or how to help, visit the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants' Web site at For more information about volunteering locally, contact Suzanne Rose at [email protected].

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