Freeze On Refugees Ripples Through The Nashville Nonprofits That Serve Them

Mar 13, 2017

Nashville’s agencies that resettle refugees have taken a hit since the freeze imposed by the Trump administration. Catholic Charities had to lay off a dozen employees, and the nonprofit World Relief is closing its local office.

Yet the refugees who already live here are still seeking their assistance. So the client base has ballooned at nonprofits like Legacy Mission Village on Nolensville Pike.

“People have just been showing up at our door, calling on the telephone, emailing us, any way they can get a hold of us,” said Kathy Edson, who directs programs.

Each year, about a thousand refugees take part in kindergarten readiness classes, afterschool tutoring, and adult courses in English, citizenship and driver’s education.

Legacy Mission Village runs classes for kindergarten readiness and afterschool tutoring, along with adult courses in English, citizenship and driver education.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

The spike in need doesn’t particularly bother the founder of Legacy Mission, who has intimate understanding of the challenges faced by refugees.

“Legacy Mission Village is a vision born from suffering,” said William Mwierza a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. “After getting a good welcome and good hospitality, I thought about helping other people who came after me.”

Mwierza said he doesn’t want local refugees to feel abandoned as the country debates the future of resettlements.

“We’re still busy because all World Relief was doing is shifting to us,” he said. “So we have to do something to keep them going.”