Afghan refugees finding home in Owensboro

Published: Nov. 20, 2021 at 10:51 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2021 at 10:54 PM CST
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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WFIE) - Refugees from Afghanistan are now arriving in Owensboro, where volunteers have gotten creative as they’ve found places for them to stay.

The Comfort Suites in Owensboro is hosting some very special guests. The hotel has become the temporary home for about 120 refugees from Afghanistan.

In a normal year, the Owensboro International Center will help bring in about 40 refugees, but with this group, they’re accepting about 150 in ten days. The process has pushed volunteers to their limits, but it hasn’t taken them long to connect with the people, even though they’re from the other side of the world.

“That I don’t have a whole lot in common on the surface but deep down, I do because they’re kind and peaceful people who want to make a better life for their family, and they could not do that there,” said Diane Ford, an International Center Volunteer.

The Evansville Islamic Center has been providing food. Several other churches and organizations have also pitched in. They even bused them to Smothers Park Friday and then to the Islamic Center for prayer.

For some of them, it was the first time they’d been out of the hotel in over a week.

One man says he didn’t know Kentucky was even a state before coming here, and now he’s having a hard time imagining himself leaving.

“Since I didn’t know this state, my intention was to go here to get the document and to move out, but it’s completely changed now,” said Khaibar Shafaq, an Afgan refugee. “For many people, we talk with them, we discuss with them, they say, ‘oh no we don’t want to move, it’s a great place, people are very nice.’”

The work may be a strain on volunteers, but they say it’s worth it, and they do it out of love.

“Having the children lighten up the mood, well I’ve been worried about them,” said Nancy Connor, an International Center volunteer. “We’ll do the best we can to get them settled.”

The International Center is working to find apartments and housing, so that those who want to stay long-term may be able to.

150 refugees in 10 days may sound like a lot, but they’re not done yet. They’re excited to receive those who are still on their way.

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