Welcoming Week ended Sunday, but Northern Kentucky organizations continue to prioritize making the region a welcoming and inclusive place by supporting neighbors of all backgrounds. Afghan evacuees will be joining the NKY community in the coming weeks, and a coalition of Northern Kentucky partners will welcome the displaced refugees to the region as part of the Afghan Evacuee Welcoming Plan for NKY.
The Northern Kentucky of Chamber of Commerce, RefugeeConnect, Kentucky Refugee Ministries and Horizon Community Funds of NKY are partnering in a community effort to provide resources and connections to the Afghan evacuees to ensure NKY provides a welcoming home for those who have been relocated.
Additional community partners have been closely engaged in these efforts, including St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Immigrant and Refugee Law Center, NKY Health Department, Kenton County Library, the Northern KY Justice and Peace Committee, Learning Grove, the Center for Great Neighborhoods, the NKY Area Center of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University, Cincinnati Compass and Welcome House of Northern Kentucky.
Kentucky Refugee Ministries is reopening its Covington office, while Horizon Community Funds has started the NKY Afghan Evacuees Community Fund to support and enable Afghans to thrive in Northern Kentucky as they are relocated.
The KRM office is scheduled to open on Nov. 15, but a community-based welcome of recently arrived Afghan evacuees may take place prior to that date in coordination with the Northern Kentucky partner coalition.
John Koehlinger, executive director of Kentucky Refugee Ministries, said, “I am heartened that the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, together with a wide range of prominent stakeholders in the development of Northern Kentucky, are partnering with KRM to welcome refugees and immigrants to the area. …persecuted people from all over the world embrace and contribute to those communities that offer them freedom, safety and opportunity. At KRM, we look forward to working together with all partners in Northern Kentucky to provide humanitarian support to refugees – and to build a prosperous, inclusive community for everyone.”
KRM services include helping refugees and immigrants access housing, medical care and eligible public benefits as well as employment and legal services.
The Horizon Community Funds’ NKY Afghan Evacuees Community Fund will support nonprofits and charitable organizations who are directly involved with supporting the Afghan relocation efforts.
According to Nancy Grayson, president of Horizon Community Funds, “Donations from our community are critical to assisting these families and individuals during this humanitarian crisis. Our nonprofit partners have joined together to ensure that our pooled resources are used effectively and efficiently to help those in need.”
RefugeeConnect will coordinate the welcoming efforts in the region. It’s mission is to connect refugees (people forced to flee their country to escape persecution or war) with resources to rebuild their lives as United States citizens. The Junior League of Cincinnati launched RefugeeConnect in 2013 after a routine community needs assessment determined that connecting refugees to existing resources was a pressing need for women and children in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The organization became an independent nonprofit in 2018.
“As an organization, RefugeeConnect prides itself on helping create a more welcoming community for all,” said Kristin Burgoyne, executive director of RegufeeConnect. “Our goal is to convene stakeholders, nonprofits, cultural leaders, and providers across the NKY region to embrace and welcome this new population of refugees as they resettle and rebuild their lives, while also strengthening culturally responsive trauma-informed services that will support the long term goals of our newest neighbors.”
The NKY Welcoming Plan, launched in March 2020 by GROW NKY and multiple partners, provided the foundation for these community efforts and made it possible to rally partners to assist with the Afghan Evacuee Welcoming Plan for NKY and help reopen the Covington KRM office.
GROW NKY is a strategic workforce collective comprised of leaders across NKY organizations working collaboratively to leverage the region’s assets to grow, attract and retain a globally competitive workforce. The NKY Chamber serves as the backbone organization leading the GROW NKY collective.
The NKY Chamber’s strategic imperatives include “building an inclusive business community” and “growing, attracting and retaining world class talent.”
Helping spearhead the Afghan Evacuee Welcoming Plan for NKY is a way for the NKY Chamber to continue to meet these imperatives and lift up people, businesses and neighbors of all backgrounds.
“Northern Kentucky is truly a welcoming and diverse community where businesses, organizations and people from all backgrounds can thrive,” said Leisa Mulcahy, managing director of GROW NKY and vice president of Workforce at the NKY Chamber. “Our partners joining together to welcome the Afghan evacuees is proof that the work of GROW NKY to unite like-minded organizations and create the NKY Welcoming Plan is paying off and will pay dividends in the future.”
Additionally, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, the premier healthcare provider in Northern Kentucky and largest private employer in the region, is committed to providing comprehensive and compassionate care to evacuees, including mental health services.
“These individuals have experienced a great deal of trauma in having to evacuate their home country,” said Alieu Nyassi, asst. vice president, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “St. Elizabeth Healthcare wants to make sure we are providing mental health services, as well as comprehensive care, to these individuals to treat the whole patient. It is also important to note that these Afghans sacrificed and risked their lives for our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters over the past 20 years. It is our time to show that we care about their wellbeing, too.”