Coronavirus closures bring special challenges for immigrants, Louisville groups stepping up

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The coronavirus pandemic brings special challenges and significant financial and language barriers for thousands of immigrants in Louisville.

Though non-profits were forced to temporarily close to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Americana Community Center is seeking ways to help immigrants. The non-profit has been serving more than 5,000 immigrants from over 100 countries for almost 30 years.

“I know many of our participants are probably scared or feeling lonely,” Antigona Mehani, director of development, said. “We all think ‘I can read this, I can understand this,’ when it comes to the COVID-19 information, but that’s not the case for many of our population here.”

The pandemic has forced the organization to temporarily suspend its 30 programs like ESL classes and trauma-care resources. 

“During these challenging times, people can be taken advantage of and we’re making sure that our participants are seeing information that is in their language and that it is accurate,” Mehani said. 

Mehani said some families were confusing the coronavirus for other diseases because of language barrier.

The organization is using social media and phone calls to share facts. Images are published on its website, explaining the virus in more than a dozen different languages to stress the importance of social distancing and washing hands.

“Our main priority is the health of the participants,” Mehani said. “It’s almost like we can’t really move forward if they’re not moving forward so we’re just there for them.”

Family coaches are also answering phone calls from people who have specific questions, JCPS is donating thousands of free meals and families are encouraged to take advantage of Louisville’s COVID-19 Response Fund if someone in the household recently lost a job and needs financial assistance. 

“You can seek help and we hope it doesn’t come to that, but at the same time stay home, stay healthy and stay informed,” Mehani said.

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