At the heart of Central Asia, and the middle of the world lies a country brimming with history, and bloodied by war. That’s where Roman Khripunov was born. In the middle of the 90’s, into a country grasping for stability and autonomy after years of foreign rule.
After declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Islam emerged as the predominant religion and Christian persecution began its steady increase—eventually earning the title of 7th most persecuted country in the world.
Roman’s parents were introduced to Christ in 1994, and, despite the risk, immediately gave their lives to the work of planting underground churches in their home country.
The government was not pleased.
They were not afraid to threaten even Roman, still only just a child. “Police would call and say, ‘If you don’t tell your parents to stop, we will cut you and your brother into pieces,” he remembers vividly.
Roman’s dad was thrown in jail at one point, but the family continued to embrace the hardships that came along with standing up for what they believed. They believed so much in their mission that they even turned down an offer to relocate as refugees to the United States.
The family went on to start over 11 underground churches. Finally, the government had had enough.
“They gave us 24 hours to leave the country,” Roman shares. “[My parents] didn’t want to leave. Police came and arrested us and escorted us to an airplane to go to Moscow.”
In Moscow, they were given just 7 months to find another place to live.
“We had nowhere to go,” he remembers. “Even the United States rejected us because we rejected their offer in 1999.”
But then—a miracle happened. With just five days left on their visas, and his mom eight months pregnant, they got a call from the U.S.
They would be resettled not as refugees, but asylees. Even still, now they would be safe.
Roman had just turned 12. He spoke no English and knew not a single soul when they landed in Houston, Texas.
That’s when, he says, the church took them in.
“The church realized we weren’t getting any help from the government, so they became that help for us. They rented our apartment for the first three months. They became our best friends. Older couples would take us out golfing or bowling—for us it was fun because we couldn’t connect with anyone at school.”
At school, Roman explains his 6th grade teacher didn’t know what to do with this Russian-speaking arrival, adding, “He would just tell me to play on the computer in the back of the classroom.”
But the church continued to step in. They taught them English. They took them shopping. They became like family.
Moved by their acts of compassion, the family began to consider how they could help others within the vast Houston refugee community. They visited apartments, and started ESOL and citizenship classes. But for Roman, real connection was found not in a building—but on a playing field.
“A year after we arrived we went to play soccer [at a tournament] in Galveston. About 30 other people came [from different nations]. Nobody spoke English, but we were connected by a ball,” he shares.
It begged the question—what if they could connect all the nations that lived in Houston with soccer?
That simple question sparked a dream within Roman and his brother. A dream to use sports to reach refugees—not just in America either, but all over the world.
“We moved to the U.S. not knowing the language, not knowing anybody,” Roman says. “We had only $150 in our pockets. Now, we just want to help.”
His dad and uncle formed a nonprofit, called “Revival Sport,” that would use sports as a connection point to reach low-income communities. The organization offers a full-on academy with coaching during the week and games on Saturday, and “Cup of Nations” tournament events. Roman and his brother got involved, and it grew.
Now, a decade later, they’re reaching individuals worldwide with locations in 22 U.S. cities, 34 Russian-speaking countries, and 25 other countries including Malaysia,Vietnam and many more.
Despite his worldwide work, Roman had continued to remain deeply invested in the Houston refugee community. But in all those years he had never met a company connecting refugees with living-wage jobs like Amplio was doing. Better yet, they had four locations: Atlanta, Dallas, Raleigh-Durham, and sure enough—Houston.
“When I heard of Amplio, I said, ‘We want to be a part of this.’” Roman shares emphatically. “Houston is the most diverse city in the U.S. and receives a lot of refugees. [Yet] there hasn’t been one organization that helps refugees find jobs that are worth it. It drew me to Amplio.”
“I was inspired. I thought, I already work with refugees, and this is another great partnership.”
Though the Managing Director role is temporary, Roman says this is just the beginning of a long-lasting partnership. He is busy at work connecting refugees and businesses, and piloting the company’s new Social Entrepreneurship Experience Dividend (SEED) program for college students looking to gain real-life business experience.
“I love meeting with business people and showing them how dependable refugees are, and explaining how they are meeting a great need,” Roman shares about his work. Then he adds a crucial note: “Here, we see a lot of families where the dad works 4-5 jobs. We’ve had a lot of suicides. [Living wage jobs] give them [back their] dignity.”
Roman, who is completing his Business Management degree online at Liberty University, will continue with Amplio through the end of the year, as part of his life-long work to help migrants like himself succeed.
At Amplio, we exist to connect great companies to the Refugee Workforce. If you’re a Houston business owner looking to add dependability to your company while doing social good, visit our website where you can learn more about our benefits and services.
Business or no business, Roman encourages everyone to engage with the refugee community, saying, “They don’t want your clothes or food pantries,” he explains. “They want friendship. That’s something they don’t receive when they move here.”
Now that’s a difference we all can make.
For more information about hiring refugees, visit our website at www.ampliorecruiting.com