By: Rob Gates
For refugees making the arduous journey to the United States, learning to deal with constant change becomes an imperative skill. While arriving at their final destination might signal the end of one particular journey, it brings a brand new set of unique changes. During this adjustment period, every day presents new challenges, which we often take for granted, such as paying rent and utilities, navigating transportation systems, and even dealing with a new weather climate. These challenges are further exacerbated by language and cultural barriers making the transition all the more daunting. Thankfully, local nonprofit organization, Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM) has made it their mission to assist refugees in navigating these challenges and provide the resources they need to adapt to their new home in the Bluegrass.
One of the most valuable resources KRM offers are weekly Cultural Orientation courses to support refugees in their transition to the United States. KRM Partners with local organizations to present a wide range of topics ranging from housing, banking and finances, fire safety, and even using the library. On Friday, April 14th Bluegrass Greensource received the unique opportunity to present at the weekly Cultural Orientation class regarding environmental issues within Lexington and Fayette County.
During the orientation, I presented to a group of 25 individuals representing Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Participants learned about the importance of energy efficiency and simple tips and improvements that can help increase home energy efficiency and comfort while saving money on utility bills. The group then learned about the recycling process in Lexington through an interactive sorting game where they raced against the clock to divide materials into recyclables and landfill bound waste. The presentation concluded with a lesson on how to properly store and dispose of Fats, Oils, and Grease (F.O.G.) materials to protect sanitary sewers and local water quality. Afterwards, the group took part in a recap quiz with prizes such as LED light bulbs, weather stripping, and caulk guns that they could utilize to increase efficiency and save money in their own homes.
Throughout the presentation, interpreters for each group translated the materials in real time, making for a unique and engaging learning environment for everyone involved. This invaluable resource (from KRM language volunteers) made it possible to reach an entirely new subset of the Lexington/Fayette County population that was previously inaccessible due to language barriers. This was a unique opportunity for Bluegrass Greensource to share the importance of environmental literacy and reinforce the message that small changes can lead to big impacts for our local environment and the world as a whole.