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Donations light up the holidays for Utah refugees

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - Dec 16th, 2013 @ 8:17am



SALT LAKE CITY — Narrowing the shopping list. Placing wrapped gifts under the tree. Christmas is around the corner and the holiday spirit is in full swing for some people.

For others, these tasks serve as constant reminders that they're strangers in a new home.

The International Rescue Committee of Salt Lake City launched the Light One Candle project in the hopes of bringing the holiday spirit to refugees newly arriving to Utah.

"A lot of the families that we work with arrive with little resources," said Natalie El-Deiry, the committee's development manager. "(It's) an opportunity to provide much needed household items, hygiene supplies, winter coats, those types of things they can't afford right off the bat."

The IRC of Salt Lake City receives about 1,200 refugees a year from around the world. The group hopes to help 100 families this holiday season.

"We're grateful for the response from the community," said Geoffrey Lugli, the organization's donations coordinator. "We're seeing a variety of items from clothing to small appliances."

El-Deiry said community and church groups can organize their own holiday and long term projects to adopt refugee families.

"Put together care packages that can be anything from baby bundles for necessities for new mothers," said El-Deiry.

How to help
Utahns can help by buying new or gently used gifts and drop them off at the IRC office from Dec. 2 - 18.

Volunteer opportunities are available to help sort and wrap gifts or to help with the main distribution event on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Utahns who are interested in participating should contact:

  • Geoffrey Lugli, Donations Coordinator
    Geoffrey.Lugli@Rescue.org
    801-883-8457

El-Deiry said Utah is one of the only states in the nation to provide 24-month case management services for refugees.

"And so we get the opportunity to work with people from the time they arrive for up to two years," she said. El-Deiry said workers are watching refugee families re-establish their lives, start small businesses, and integrate into the Utah communities.

"It's really inspiring to see people from the time we pick them up at the airport with total culture shock," she said, "to 24 months when we're graduating them as they become contributing members of our communities."

The Light One Candle holiday drive for adopting refugees in Salt Lake City through the International Rescue Committee served 70 refugee households last year.

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