International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green opens new facility aimed at serving the region's refugees
The International Center of Kentucky has unveiled a new facility that will provide expanded resources, job training, and security for the refugee population in the Bowling Green region. The new facility will be called theDr. Catherine Ward Center for New Americans and is named in honor of a professor emeritus of English at Western Kentucky University.
The new building will be used to provide job training, prepare new arrivals for U.S. citizenship tests, and build relationships with local businesses. It will also house a literacy program and a state sponsored program to help victims of domestic violence.
Albert Mbanfu, the Executive Director of the International Center, said that the new building is an exciting development for the growing refugee community across southern Kentucky.
"The need has grown, we have resettled on average 400 individuals every year," Mbanfu said. "I've been here 10 years now, I’ve resettled no less than 4,000 individuals here in Bowling Green. The number keeps growing and one of the reasons is because of the welcoming community we have here, the availability of jobs and life is relatively moderate in Bowling Green."
Mbanfu was joined by Dr. Catherine Ward and members of the Warren County Fiscal Court, the Bowling Green Board of Commissioners, and members of the refugee community during the ceremony.
Along with being a hub for community development, the center will also serve an important role as a resiliency hub for community members. The building is equipped with an industrial-sized commercial kitchen, backup gas generators, portable showers, and solar panels for electricity.
According to Mbanfu, the new facility was developed in a way to best serve the international community of Warren County.
“The tornadoes of 2021 played a very big part for us to try to involve the center to serve as a community hub," Mbanfu said. "When we were putting up this structure we reached out to The Red Cross and they were more than willing to help us put things into to make this is a resiliency hub."
Plans for an additional center had been in the works for since 2016 according to Mbanfu. Contribution to the project came from the city of Bowling Green, The American Red Cross, and private donations.
*Correction: an earlier version of this story stated the center would be used as an emergency shelter in case of natural disaster. The center will only be used as a resiliency hub.*