Mehmet works with the American Turkish Friendship Association of Kentucky. We have done many projects together; Peace Feasts, Iftar Dinners, arranging firefighter appreciation dinners and serving together in a local shelter. More than just doing projects together, we are friends. We drink a lot of tea together and discuss how we can make the world a better place.
Have you ever wished you could travel to another country and learn about some foreign culture? Or maybe you have watched a travel show or flipped through a magazine and had questions you wished you could ask. Did you know that over 100 languages are represented in our local schools? Chances are, whatever culture sparked your questions is represented in our state. Sadly, many in the state don’t utilize this great learning and cultural resource. Some of us would like to change that.
From the bluff on which the Berry Hill Mansion sits you can look down on Frankfort’s Capitol Rotunda. This was the venue Peace Catalyst International and The American Turkish Friendship Association chose to highlight a hidden treasure. State legislators and representatives gathered in the mansion above the capitol to meet some of the internationals that live in Kentucky.
As the representatives arrived they were treated to warm smiles from around the globe. A buffet of homemade international foods was served as guests mingled and shared stories. Educators, doctors, business owners, farmers, insurance salesmen, lawyers and engineers took a few steps toward friendship and greater understanding. An Afghani man attended who had worked for the US military and now lives in Louisville. A Bosnian friend shared that there are 5000 Bosnians in Kentucky and recounted the many businesses they have opened. Tragically, he had lost both of his legs in the war in Bosnia. He came here on a stretcher, but now helps Kentucky Refugee Ministry resettle other refugees.
The stories and journeys represented in the room were inspiring. Person after person stepped to the microphone and told how happy they were to live in Kentucky and how their community had contributed to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Some had arrived as refugees. It took some time to learn the language, get through school, and settle in, but now they are grateful to be in Kentucky and are giving back. People from Bosnia, Syria, India, Pakistan, Somalia, Burundi, Congo, Afghanistan, Turkey, China, and Iran were all there. It was a wonderful opportunity for our state representatives to see the diversity within our borders and to consider the possibilities represented.
Already plans are being made for next year. We hope to invite the ambassadors or consular workers from the embassies in Washington that represent the various ethnicities living in Kentucky. We hope to facilitate cultural and economic partnerships that will be mutually beneficial. What export possibilities might be facilitated through building these networks? What businesses might be opened that might employ the citizens of Kentucky? The only way to discover the possibilities is to get to know each other and learn to dream together. That is what we did in Frankfort, when the state representatives took the time to drink some Turkish coffee, eat some amazing food, and meet our international guests.