Volunteers Needed to Help Refugees Settle in Utah

Volunteers Needed to Help Refugees Settle in Utah

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Jed Boal ReportingThe turmoil in the nation of Myanmar is producing a surge of refugees, and some are in Utah, with more on the way. There are refugees from other troubled nations coming to Utah, too.

For years, Salt Lake City has welcomed thousands of refugees from around the world, people like Hassan Abdikadr and his family who fled Somalia more than a decade ago and ended up in Utah three years ago. He says they're happy here, even though his kids don't like snow.

Catholic Community Services and The International Rescue Committee helped several hundred refugees resettle this fall, nearly 4,000 over the last five years. Most experienced culture shock.

This fall most are Burmese, forced from Myanmar by a military regime that threatens their lives and freedom.

Ging Thang says, "I like this country."

Most fled Myanmar years ago and lived in refugee camps before finally getting clearance to relocate to the U.S. Ging Thang arrived three months ago; he's lost his family. "We have no freedom. Everywhere we have no freedom, but if we need to turn back to our country, we have no chance to go back to our country," he said.

Most Burmese refugees speak no English, and few in our community speak Burmese. So the mayor's office urges us to volunteer as mentors.

Aden Batar fled Somalia. He works for Catholic Community Services to help refugees make their new homes. He said, "There's no concept of the life skills, things that we take for granted here, they don't understand. So, families when they arrive here, they need to absorb all [these] things in a short period of time."

These mentors don't need to speak Somali or Burmese, they just need to be willing to help the families acclimate to our culture.

Batar said, "If they could show the families they are welcome here, ‘I'm your friend, I want to help you,' the smile on your face, that makes a big difference."

Fear of the past, shopping, job hunting and western technology -- new friends ease that culture shock.

To become a mentor, please contact Josie Valdez, Administrator of the Mayor's Office of Diversity, at (801) 535-7734 or josie.valdez@slcgov.com. Or contact Catholic Community Services at (801) 977-9119.

Volunteers will be trained and can offer a lot of help.

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