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TAYLORSVILLE — A group of mayors, refugees and individuals involved in helping refugees settle in Utah gathered Friday to recognize Salt Lake County's participation in a nationwide Welcoming Week.
Events in the county this week are designed with the theme: "Belonging begins with us."
"As we've seen over the past month, one of the most pressing humanitarian crisis of our time is happening in Afghanistan," said Natalie El-Deiry with the International Rescue Committee. "Part of our work locally in the coming weeks will be to welcome hundreds of people who have been evacuated from Afghanistan as they make their way to Utah to become some of our newest members."
Already, various organizations including the International Rescue Committee, the Refugee Services Office and other partners have mobilized and made it possible for these refugees from Afghanistan to come to Salt Lake County, El-Deiry said. The next step, she said, is for communities to come together and welcome in the new members.
Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson explained that the designated week — Sept. 10 through Sept. 19 — and the over 20 events are an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate refugees and to make the county even more welcoming. Each person has the ability to help others feel welcome and included in the community, she said, adding that Salt Lake County has participated in Welcoming Week since 2016.
"During Welcoming Week we invite all of Salt Lake County to join us in this movement of communities nationwide by renewing our commitment to our core American values and by taking action in the spirit of welcoming. By working together we can achieve greater prosperity and make our community the kind of place where diverse people from around the world feel valued and want to put down roots," Overson said, reading from the proclamation.
Overson and four other mayors from Salt Lake County cities signed the proclamation and shared how refugees have been a benefit to their cities, including Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle, Midvale Mayor Robert Hale, Murray Mayor Blair Camp and West Jordan Mayor Dick Burton.
The events this week include cooking classes, a live reading, a panel discussion, presentations, farmers markets and other ceremonies.
José Borjón from the consulate of Mexico shared that it is important for immigrants from Mexico to feel welcome when they come to Salt Lake County, and that he has seen there are many resources available for these immigrants which have helped them to thrive.
"The message being sent consistently by the county … is that they are welcome, and I believe that is so important," Borjón said.