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Refugee assistance and student transportation among Bowling Green tornado response

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Rhonda J. Miller
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A Bowling Green-based resettlement agency is helping coordinate efforts to assist refugee and immigrant families following last weekend’s devastating tornadoes.

Executive Director of the International Center of Kentucky Albert Mbanfu said some of the families impacted had just begun to put down roots in the community when disaster struck.

“As we all know, we were hit hard in Bowling Green by the tornado and many of our refugees were affected," said Mbanfu. "Some have been here for a longer period of time and we also had some who are pretty new arrivals, and they don’t own homes, but the homes they were renting were damaged.”

Representatives from area schools and local governments will have access to a Google data base of impacted families to avoid duplication and make sure no one gets left behind.

The groups are planning to offer language assistance to help families apply for funding to cover housing costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

Among the languages spoken by immigrants in Warren County are Pashto, Dari, Swahili, Chin, Karen  and Spanish.

Another element of the tornado respone in southern Kentucky is from educators, who are already planning ways to help students impacted by the tornadoes when classes begin in January. 

The tornadoes that moved across the area destroyed or damaged the homes of many students in the Bowling Green and Warren County school districts, causing them to move into shelters, hotels, or the homes of friends. 

Dee Anna Crump, a principal with Warren County Public Schools, said the district is doing its best to locate families so they give students some sense of normalcy. 

“We are going to do our best to attempt to offer transportation to keep them in their home school, if that’s what they’re wanting to do," said Crump. "If some of them let’s say, if they’re long-termers, and they’re moving in with a family or something like that, and they want to transfer to that school with their family, that’s not a problem.”

An estimated 500 homes in Warren County were destroyed in the tornado and at least 15 county residents lost their lives. Some of those who died were children. 

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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