Over 1,200 refugees come to Utah each year and they total over 65,000 refugees, not immigrants. 90% of them live in Salt Lake County and half of these refugees are women and children. The refugees coming to the Utah come directly from Worldwide Refugee Camps. Recent refugee groups coming to Utah are Somali, Iraqi, Afghani, Eritrean, Congolese, Nepali, Syrian, Burmese, Karen, and Butanese.
Here’s some information on helping refugees in Utah that I’ve gathered over the last couple months. I hope it helps those who are interested! I know there are many more organizations but these are the ones I’m focusing on for now:
1) Serve Refugees. I was told this is like the umbrella and a lot of the opportunities and information they post on Facebook come from various organizations, like Catholic Community Services, International Rescue Committee, and the Department of Workforce Services/Refugee Services. I found out about teaching refugees to sew through Serve Refugees, but the lady who is over us is with the Utah government. Make sure to follow Serve Refugees on Facebook because they post very easy ways to help fulfill needs (food, coats, hygiene kits, cleaning needs, etc.)
2) Catholic Community Services helps those who are newly relocated to Utah, so they are focused on resettlement. They have orientations they present the second Thursday of every month at 5:45 pm at the Refugee Office on 745 E 300 S in SLC. All new volunteers are asked to attend to learn more about refugees, the process of their journey and the services received through CCS. I was told the person I’ve been emailing back and forth that it is really a great way to just tell the truth about the refugees coming to Utah.
They DO go to different areas and present their orientation, and we have one set up for Feb. 6 in our lds ward. However, I talked this morning with the man who is coming, and with the temporary ban, they are not sure how things are going to work out. I was told they work primarily with those who are just coming for the first 6 months or so here.
The orientation talks about the refugees Utah receives. There is no commitment to sign up if you attend the orientation.
Opportunities for helping that I know for sure are available through CCS:
-work with their job developers to teach refugees how to write a great resume and help locate jobs
-mentor a refugee family. Commit to 2-3 hours a week for a 4-6 month period. You help acquaint them to life in Utah by doing things like helping them grocery shop, attend parent teacher conference, show how to ride a bus or attend doctor appointment with them
-teach English to refugees.
-tutor school age children
-help set up homes before their arrivals
-assist in office
-help sort and organize home furnishings
-latest email said they are looking for volunteers to help teach refugee children how to cook
If you decide to sign up, you are placed with other volunteers and as a group you take care of the needs of a refugee family. Your group or ward potentially could be assigned a family or two if there is enough interest.
I spoke to them both about mentoring a family as well as teaching English and once Ruby is in school will likely do the English, but family mentoring is the direction I want to head right now.
To sign up with them, you do need to pay a $37 for a National Background Screening fee as well as $10-$25 for 2 fingerprint cards. They used to have funding to cover this but no longer do.
3) Refugee Services:
I discussed opportunities with the gal over the sewing with refugees, and here’s what she said:
“The biggest difference between our program and CCS (and IRC for that matter) is the population we work with. IRC and CCS both work with families that have been here less than two years and are still being supervised through case management. Our program works specifically with those that are no longer in case management, and therefore are no longer receiving that additional support. The only other notable differences are that our program focuses on both mentoring and friendship, whereas theirs is more just mentorship. Other than that, the programs (as far as I know) are very similar.
Our program is affiliated with the Department of Workforce Services, although the owner of the program is the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office. Getting involved in that program would actually be extremely simple for you since you are already volunteering in one of our other programs. Typically that process includes an orientation (which you did by watching the video – although I’d be happy to talk to you more specifically about Family Friend questions before or after a sewing class sometime) and the background check paperwork (which you’ve also already done). All there would really be left for you to do is look over the list of families we would send you, pick your top three families, tell us who they are as well as a few sentences about why you picked them, and then we would introduce you to the family that fits the best.”
If you fill out this volunteer form, you will receive requests for help with various needs. So far I have received an email asking for assistance with cooking classes for kids/teens. Sounds so fun, right!?
4) International Rescue Committee: I am not as familiar with this agency, but it seems very similar to the others. There are family mentoring opportunities, tutoring for American Citizenship, helping refugees navigate the bus system, etc. Great opportunities there as well, and it looks like a $45 Background Screening fee.
Other things I know you can do:
I’ve seen where you can provide childcare at a designated place while parents are learning English. Attend Parent Teacher Conferences or doctor appointments.
5) Attend the Meet the Muslims event (held every Friday in February right now, and I’m sure to extend past this month).
There is so very much we can do. This feels as if I’m just scratching the surface of what all there is available for us to help with. On each of the sites linked to, there are even more ways to help that are listed, along with other agencies that help.
I know this is long, and if you’ve read this far, that’s great!
One of the biggest reasons I feel so moved to act is the two lds talks given in General Conference recently. While listening to these talks, I imagined one of my children arriving in a new country. Not knowing the language. Not knowing anyone. Having seen so much sorrow and known so much heartache. Possibly losing one or both parents and some or all of their siblings. I imagine this as if I was not able to be with my child for whatever reason. And how I would beg and plead in prayer for someone to please have mercy and compassion towards my child and to please have the heart and courage to take care of them and love them as if they were family. This I believe is what has been asked of all of us. To love and help and provide for these refugees, and the rest of God’s children. Because we have been given so very much.