LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Around the globe Thursday, millions of people celebrated World Refugee Day. That, of course, included Louisville. Thursday afternoon, the festivities took over Cherokee Park in the Highlands.
"Celebrating all of the folks in our community who are making it more vibrant and beautiful,” Kentucky Refugee Ministries Family Youth Services Manager & Program Leader Adrienne Eisenmenger said.
There are plenty of reasons leaders said Louisville should be proud of its work as a welcoming place, but they think it all comes down to the people. They said the city has a strong history of helping refugees, and that tradition only continues to grow stronger.
"There are millions of others who are struggling to find safe haven, and that, as a city, we can be a beacon to the rest of the world on how to be compassionate and welcome those who are in need,” Louisville Metro Government Office of Globalization Director Bryan Warren said. "Our city is growing, and if we want to be globally competitive, we need to have a city that looks like the rest of the world. Not only do we want a community that is resilient and can compete with other cities around the world, but we also want our kids in our community to live in a diverse place that's fun, engaging, and really capable of being ready for what the 21st century is going to present to us,”
Kentucky Refugee Ministries hosts the annual celebration for its clients and the entire community.
"Some of the southern hospitality goes a long way here in our city,” Eisenmenger said.
Louisville is a certified welcoming city, one of only two in the country.
"We have a community that really puts it into action. So, we work really hard to find integrative services to get people housing and medical assistance and try to find ways to get them more involved in the community,” Warren said.
"I think that's the beauty of Louisville is that everyone can find home here,” Eisenmenger said.
KRM and the city said it's a similar story for so many refugees who've found their way here.
"People are fleeing so many horrible things, and they come here wanting to rebuild their lives, find peace, and make a home,” Eisenmenger said.
They’re finding it in a city that's become a model for others.
"There's a spirit of compassion, there's open hearts and generosity, and there's certainly a sense of collaboration and partnership in our city that when I travel to other parts of the country and around the world, they're shocked that our business sector, education community, faith institutions and government can all work together,” Warren said.
"We are a community of immigrants. People came from all over the world to help found Louisville, and so I think that's part of our heritage and part of who we are is we are people who have come from many different places,” Eisenmenger said.
Kentucky Refugee Ministries will turn 30 next year. The organization said it's always looking for volunteers. If you've interested in helping out, click here.