Farming program secures better life for refugees in northeast Ohio

Farming program secures better life for refugees in northeast Ohio

OHIO CITY, OH (WOIO) - The Refugee Response is a program created to help refugees learn skills to adjust to life in northeast Ohio. Thanks to a new $25,000 gr ant from the Aetna Foundation, they can get agricultural training, which in turn could land them a job at places, like the West Side Market.

Indra Pyakurel says he really likes his job and wants to make a contribution.

"Working is important, particularly important," he said.

Pyakurel came to America from Bhutan about five years ago. He's one of nine refugees working with The Refugee Response at the Ohio City Farm Stand. The program connects people with agriculture backgrounds and gives them training in the field and in the classroom.

"Refugee only describes the way a person arrived here, but has nothing to do with their passions, talents, their dreams, as well. We're looking to grow people to become contributing members in their community. So it's valuable for all of us to understand the treasures they bring to northeast Ohio," said Darren Hamm, executive director.

Hamm says the farmers grow more than 20,000 pounds of produce every year. They distribute those fruits and vegetables every Friday and Saturday, selling them to 18 different restaurants -- some right in the neighborhood.

"We are just about as local, I mean, we're hyper local. We're just as local for the restaurants around here. I think we've seen a big shift of people wanting to know their farmer and the wonderful thing about us is you get to know a farmer that has come to this country from another part of the world," explained Maggie Fitzpatrick, director of agricultural empowerment.

Those running the program say most people don't know they're helping these farmers achieve a better way of life. Hamm says it's part of the healing process.

"Growing things from seed to harvest is an honorable tradition and work set involved," he said.

The goal is to train new farmers who can sustain a career and a life in America.

"My country, my program, come to America, the program, I like," said Pyakurel.

The Refugee Response is hoping to expand. It is always looking for volunteers and donations. Learn more here.

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