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Navigating a New Home

During the first couple years of a family’s arrival in Kentucky, they rely almost exclusively on public transit to travel around their new home. Whether they are riding the TARC in Louisville or Lextran in Lexington, families have to quickly learn how to use the bus system to go to ESL classes, appointments, and work. To help people prepare for Kentucky roads, KRM offers a free driver’s education course and scholarships for in-car lessons. Many families save up for months in order to purchase a car.

If you are interested in making a positive impact on a family’s transportation needs, please consider donating a vehicle. Below are two families who share their stories of settling into their new home. One received a donated car and the other family ended up purchasing a car of their own. In both cases, the freedom of a vehicle empowered the family. You can learn more about donating a car at the bottom of the story.

The following stories were prepared in part by former KRM Louisville intern Alexis Purifoy.

Sam was born in Khost, Afghanistan.

When he was a young man he began working in his uncle’s electrical shop downtown. One afternoon while working in the shop, a man stopped by and offered him a job on the United States’ military base. Sam immediately accepted the offer and began training to become a certified electrician.

For the first three years, he kept his new job prospect a secret because this work with the U.S. military made him a target. Still, he wanted work and wanted to help.

“The Americans needed help from the local people,” he says. “We need to work together.”

Although he maintained his promise not to tell anyone about his work, his secret was discovered. One morning at work, he received a letter stating that if he did not leave his job, he and his family would be kidnapped. Despite this threat, Sam continued working with the military for a total of 12 years. Early in his work, interpreters translated for him in his native language of Pashto. Eventually, he learned English from working and practicing with others.

“They were like family,” he says.

Life became too risky, however. He says that while his coworkers were sad to watch him leave, they sympathized with him for wanting to protect his family. Because Sam worked for a U.S. military base, he and his family qualified for resettlement in the U.S. through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. At the time, the SIV program offered protection and resettlement for qualifying individuals who worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan or Iraq.

In January 2018, Sam, his wife, and three sons—ranging from elementary school age to younger—arrived in the United States. Soon after arriving, the family attended medical exams, and Sam discovered his wife was pregnant with their fourth child. It was also around this time that his children all became ill. Still adjusting to his new home, he felt unsure of where to go to obtain medicine. His KRM caseworker intervened to connect the family to medical care, and his children made a quick recovery. After the sickness and receiving the news about the new pregnancy, he realized how difficult it would be to navigate a new home. The family relied solely on the bus for transportation to ESL classes and medical appointments. He has a friend from Afghanistan who arrived a few years ahead of him and who helped provide rides whenever possible.

“He has helped us a lot,” Sam explains. “He’s good to us!”

When asked about his desires for his family’s future in the U.S., Sam says he wants a good life for himself and his family and to keep them safe. He hopes having a safe vehicle to use when he and his family need to go to medical appointments or to go to work will help them.

As children, Nang and her two siblings worked on a farm with their parents.

They grew vegetables and raised cows, chickens, and pigs. This farm was not family-owned, however. Nang explains that this was forced labor overseen by military personnel in Burma.

“Since we were about nine years old, we had to give labor to the government,” Nang says. “We could not finish our job as fast as others, so we would have to stay late and work for a long time.”

Unlike Nan, when Philip was a child, he was able to go to school – but he had to stop by seventh grade. Because his parents couldn’t afford to continue paying for his schooling, he dropped out to find work.

“The education system is very limited,” he says. “We have to pay for school since the first day.”

Later, a friend working in an auto body shop recommended him for a job. There, Philip learned to repair cars through on-the-job experience. “The work was not easy, but I enjoyed the experience,” he says.

After Nang and Philip met, married, and had their first son, the family faced financial hardships. Some days, they didn’t have money for food. When the government began drafting men for the military, Philip was certain he would be chosen because he was from the lower economic class. The family chose to flee to avoid being forcibly conscripted into the military. Because they fled, Philip and Nang said they would be arrested if they later returned to Burma.

The family has been settled in Kentucky for over a year. They are enjoying their freedom and many opportunities, they say. Their greatest challenges since starting their new life include difficulty with transportation, financial literacy, and learning the English language.

Philip started a job about two months after resettlement. He works from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. four days each week at a factory. Though he is thankful for this employment, the couple admits their income is only just enough to cover their bills. Upon arrival in the country, they had several medical appointments for all four members of the family. Their trips to the grocery store were challenging in freezing temperatures, especially with the children.

Five months after arriving, the family’s KRM caseworker surprised them with the news that she applied for them to receive a car that had been donated to the agency. Since receiving the donated car, the family says they are more capable of navigating their new life.

“We can go to church and the grocery store!” Philip says. “We can meet with friends. We can do whatever we want and need to do. We can go anywhere, so it’s a big change. I go to work with this car, which is most important. Before I had this car, I had to take the bus two hours one way. I spent many hours just coming home. I can now help friends who need transportation. I can go do the laundry on my own.”

As they become more self-sufficient, Nang and Philip are setting new goals for the future. Nang aspires to continue her studies. Since she never had the chance to finish high school, she hopes to get her GED. Her dream is opening her own restaurant someday. Philip also wants to study. He especially wants to improve his English so he can communicate with more people and help teach his children.

“We don’t have a lot of things, but we have enough,” Philip says. “It is truly a blessing. We cannot even find words to thank the people who donated the car.”

To donate a vehicle, please visit our page on Donating Items. At the bottom, you will find more information about cars we accept and how to donate.

At the request of the families, faces were not featured in the photograph above and full names were omitted.