Americana’s longtime director of Louisville’s immigrant, refugee center to retire
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - From cultural differences, to having to learn a new language, Edgardo Mansilla understands the struggles immigrants go through when they first arrive in America.
Nearly 30 years ago, he moved from Argentina to the states and had a hard time assimilating into American society, because there weren’t any resources to help guide him.
In 1993, Mansilla launched the Americana World Community Center so other immigrants and refugees wouldn’t have to go through something similar.
Walking the halls now, he said he sees how much both the building and the number of people it serves have grown over the years.
“We had the first African country which was Sierra Leone, and after that, it was an explosion,” Mansilla said. “Bosnia, Croatia, Serbs; the whole world. When we first moved into this building, I thought I was going to have room for the rest of my life,” he added.
However, that wouldn’t become the case. The center has had a long waiting list ever since it expanded to the former Holy Rosary Academy in 2003. Now, one in six people in Louisville are either immigrants or refugees, making the city top five in the nation for the most people in those categories.
The center has been teaching immigrants and refugees from more than 100 different countries skills needed to not only survive in America, but to thrive, from English as a second language courses, to after school programs, computer lessons and sports.
“What we are doing at the center is providing tools to the people to be integrated into the society without losing their own identity,” Mansilla said. “The immigrant population holds this economy. We are the ones who are washing the dishes at restaurants, making the beds at hotels; working at warehouses,” he added.
After nearly three decades of guiding immigrants and refugees through the assimilation process, Mansilla will retire on Dec. 31.
“We are moving to a new world that you need to have a fresh brain to connect,” he said.
There is a nationwide search for Mansilla’s replacement. He told WAVE 3 News he doesn’t want to be a part of the selection process, and after his retirement, he’ll still be involved at the center.
The Americana World Community Center is a non-profit organization. For ways to help support the center, click here.
Copyright 2021 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.