Kevin Uyisenga Discusses Initial Survey Findings
Episode 10: Welcome to our podcast dealing with issues related to immigrants and refugees. In today’s episode, Executive Director Kevin Uyisenga provides some initial insights from the ongoing survey See Forward Ministries is conducting. This data (both quantitative and qualitative) will provide a foundation for targeted activities within the communities See Forward Ministries serves, funding requests and partnership development on the local and statewide levels.
Kevin explains that the survey has been underway for the past 3 months. They still have outreach to do including personal visits, phone interviews and other activities. The idea is to build a better understanding of the various people groups within the served communities, as well as the needs they currently have. Many immigrants and refugees do not get the opportunity to participate in the census. Given that occurs on a 10-year cycle, the environment in which these individuals and families live often goes unrecorded, unrecognized and, as a result, under-served. It’s the goal of this survey to document the issues to provide direction as See Forward Ministries moves forward.
Three Primary Categories – Initial Findings
At this point in the survey analysis, there are 3 primary categories that have surfaced. They are similar to our community at large: Housing, Legal and Financial. Kevin will provide initial insights into why he thinks these 3 categories are so dominant in the immigrant and refugee segment. See Forward Ministries has formed a working partnership with Louisville Metro Government’s Office for Globalization, to identify programs and partnerships available to assist with a number of the key categories and concerns.
Housing is the top category in terms of need and concern. The availability of affordable housing in Jefferson County, Kentucky is problematic. Add to this the economic volatility we are experiencing and it’s easy to see how this particular segment of our community may struggle, even more than the community at large.
Given the language barrier that often exists, many of the individuals and families are less able to access the existing infrastructure designed to benefit low- to moderate-income households. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see larger families, and multiple families, living in a single apartment unit. Kevin comments that a recent report indicated that there are approximately 150+ languages spoken in our community. Louisville is an extremely diverse city.
It can also be difficult for immigrants and refugees to establish credit with lenders and/or property management companies. Newly arrived individuals don’t have the credit history or income necessary for single family housing in various areas throughout Jefferson County.
Legal Services is another top category for immigrants and refugees. The types of legal services often include immigration and naturalization, family law, criminal defense and business law. Many of the immigrants and refugees who are arriving in our area were entrepreneurs and business owners in their home countries. Understanding how to navigate the business and tax environment here can be a challenge. However, by assisting and guiding them, it’s possible they may continue to explore opportunities to start businesses, provide for their families and even provide jobs for others.
In Episode 7, we were joined by local immigration and criminal defense attorney Davis Tyler. He explained how the change of culture, combined with the language barrier can often lead to issues with the law. Unfortunately, those issues can have much more serious ramifications for an immigrant/refugee up to and including deportation.
The stress of relocation and assimilation adds a tremendous burden to the family dynamic. Combine this with the cultural differences and you can begin to understand how traditional, cultural norms are confronted with the new cultural norms in the US society. Some individuals, spouses and children can struggle to adapt to the new environment. Unfortunately, the situation sometimes leads to family law issues.
Financial Issues are the 3rd top category of need. It’s not uncommon for immigrant and refugee families to have a relatively larger number of children. While various programs exist, once again, the language barrier often makes it more difficult for many in this community to understand and find access to those programs. Additionally, the local cost of living can a challenge for those who are struggling to find gainful employment in their new surroundings. The lack of adequate transportation and other factors combine to make it difficult for people to manage the financial requirements of a household budget.
See Forward Ministries is working closely with several families. It’s not simply about money, it’s about helping them to find opportunities to begin jobs and careers. The journey ahead for many immigrants and refugees is a difficult one. However, organizations such as See Forward Ministries continue to help build bridges to a successful life in our local community. Nevertheless, those organizations can’t do it alone. They need people and local businesses to step up and to engage in some of the various programs, such as those offered by See Forward Ministries. That engagement can result in a positive, generational impact. Your involvement will help someone live up to his/her highest potential.
If you’re interested in helping with this effort, as Executive Director Kevin Uyisenga says, “Join Us!”
See Forward Ministries is a non-profit organization founded to be a bridge between those who are settling in our area and members of our community who may have an interest in getting involved, learning about different cultures and making this transition a little easier.
This podcast provides a platform for listeners to learn about this organization and the people who are involved with it. If you’ve ever thought about learning more about different cultures, this is an excellent opportunity. Please SUBSCRIBE to our podcast, so you get notifications each time a new episode is launched. Our plan is to launch a new one every 2 weeks.
Visit www.SeeForwardMinistry.com for more information. We’re also on various social media platforms. Let’s connect!