Refugee Services Office, Catholic Community Services support integration of refugees in Utah

Story and slideshow by BLAKE LANCASTER

When a refugee resettles in a new country, oftentimes they are in a new community with new rules, a new language and a new culture. How do they approach this challenging situation and become integrated members of American society? Organizations such as Utah’s Refugee Services Office can help with the transition.

Gerald Brown is currently an assistant director and state refugee coordinator at the Refugee Services Office, which is one of these organizations. The Refugee Services Office help refugees learn English, find and gain skills for employment and build connections with locals who can help show them the way things work in their new community.

Brown became interested in working with refugees during a year-long trip to Egypt with the YMCA where he experienced a culture with hardship unlike what we know in America. This sparked his passion for social justice. He went on the service trip expecting to help people, but when he finished he realized he learned the most.

Since his eye-opening service trip, Brown has worked in refugee agencies from Houston to New York to Cuba before becoming one of the godfathers of major Utah refugee programs.

For several years, Utah held monthly town hall meetings to discuss the state of refugee resettlement programs in Utah. In 2008, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. approved the addition of refugee services and Brown was appointed to direct and lead the new program toward success.

Brown hasn’t stopped serving refugees since then and can be credited with the efficient success the Refugee Services Offices is able to accomplish when it comes to the integration process.

“If you can accomplish integration, then you have the strongest community possible,” Brown said.

From all of his experiences, one of the things Brown has learned that he stresses is understanding the important distinction between integration and assimilation.

Integration can be defined as incorporating individuals from different groups into a society as equals. Though similar, assimilation means to adopt the ways of the new culture and fully become part of it resulting in an immense loss of cultural identity.

Danielle Stamos, public relations and marketing director for Catholic Community Services, said it is important we make it acceptable and comfortable for refugees to continue their traditions and maintain their culture.

“Not only do they preserve their culture, but they also share their culture with the community in Utah,” Stamos said. “I love when we see refugee communities creating their own events taking some of their traditions from their own countries and implementing them here.”

Catholic Community Services is another organization with programs in place to help refugees integrate into Utah. Catholic Community Services provides case managers to refugees as they are resettled in Utah who help them get on their feet. They provide them with housing, teach them the way the American system works when it comes to everyday life, help them learn the language, find them jobs, and much more.

One way Stamos suggested the everyday community member could help with integration is approaching refugees and being welcoming and friendly. If, however, you’re really feeling ambitious and eager to get involved, finding an organization that helps refugees and interests you to volunteer with can be rewarding to all parties involved.

“Once you work one-on-one with a refugee you can see daily how easy it can be to help support them in their goals and support them in maintaining their culture,” Stamos said. “There will always be a lot of fear out there of change and things that are different, but if we instead embrace it we can see how much more strong and beautiful our community and relationships can be if we share and work together.”

Nirmala Kattel provides a unique understanding of assisting the integration process of refugees as she is a refugee herself as well as an employee at the Refugee Education and Training Center.

The Refugee Education and Training Center is located at the Meadowbrook campus of Salt Lake Community College where Kattel also attends as a student. Kattel said one of the center’s most popular services utilized by refugees is help with jobs similar to Catholic Community Services, but the Education and Training Center is there to help after refugees no longer have their initial case manager.

Another popular service at the center that Kattel has noticed are the English classes. Some refugees come with very limited knowledge of the English language, which is a key hurdle for refugees to clear as once they can surpass the language barrier, it makes the rest of the steps in the integration process a little easier.

Kattel came to Utah as a refugee from Nepal in 2009 and quickly learned that isolation is another of the bigger barriers refugees face upon arrival for her and other refugees alike. She had to wait six years before the rest of her family was able to resettle in America.

“Refugees who come alone feel isolated and depressed missing their families and their past lives, so involvement and engagement in outside activities can help them through these feelings,” Kattel said.

Kattel said the elderly refugees can especially struggle with the isolation and loneliness. Since they don’t have a job or school to go to, it confines their reasons to leave their home. This seclusion can lead to difficulties with learning English and understanding the system of our community as a whole.

“The system is hard to understand at first. Refugees from almost everywhere come from somewhere with a totally different system in their countries or the refugee camps they waited in before coming here,” Kattel said.

Showing interest in refugees as a person and who they are culturally can help them with almost all of their integration barriers. Additionally, it can make them feel more comfortable in sharing their culture with their new community. Kattel said a friend with experience in the community always proves to be a valuable asset to refugees trying to make sense of their new home and sharing their cultural values.

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Catholic Community Services remains a helping hand for those in need in Salt Lake City

Story and slideshow by HAYDEN S. MITCHELL

“All we want to do [as an organization] is help folks in our community,” said Aden Batar, immigration and refugee resettlement director at Catholic Community Services, located at 745 E. 300 South in Salt Lake City.

The primary goals of CCS are to help those in need and create hope for people who have none. According to its pledge, “Catholic Community Services of Utah has been empowering people in need to reach self-sufficiency.” CCS does this by lifting up those in the community, regardless of gender, race or religion.

In 1945, the Rev. Duane G. Hunt of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City saw there were many people in need of assistance. These folks were poor and no help was coming their way. So, with that, Hunt started an organization to contribute to his community. According to the CCS website, this organization started by creating adoption centers, poverty assistance, foster care, counseling and transit programs.

“There have always been people in need … that is way we must help if we are able to,” Batar said. “Not everyone can do it themselves, which is why organizations like this are around.”

Following 1945, Hunt’s organization continued to expand, beyond his death in 1960. It grew from a single office to four different sites and buildings that deliver social services to folks in need of help in Utah, specifically Northern Utah and the Wasatch Front. As the organization grew it strove to help more and more people in need of assistance. The Rev. Hunt’s organization joined the United Way Agency in 1951, allowing them to help more people, according to the CCS website.

The St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop and Soup Kitchen were opened in 1967, as an extension of the Rev. Hunt’s organization. It began providing food and clothes for the homeless, which continues to this day. Over 1,000 meals a day are served to needy Utahns at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall located in 437 W. 200 South in Salt Lake City. It is a mid-day and evening meal service, according to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul,

Ethan Lane, a local high school student who has volunteered at the soup kitchen over the last couple of years, spoke very highly of the work they do, saying, “Having a reliable place to go get a nice meal is important.” Lane added, “Without this place providing the service they do, there would be a lot more hungry people here in Utah.”

That is why it is important for community organizations to continue their work by maintaining the places like the soup kitchen and increasing their reach. Poverty and hunger continue to be an issue in Utah. According to the U.S. Census, more than 10 percent of the population is living below the poverty line. That is one in every 10 people living in Utah. Add to that, Utah is ranked fourth in the United States for the highest rate of very low food security.

Not only has Hunt’s organization made efforts to help the hungry and homeless in our community but they also strive to help others in need like immigrant and refugees, says Batar. The Rev. Terence M. Moore added the refugee resettlement program to Hunt’s organization in 1974. The refugee foster care program was established the next year to assist unaccompanied minor refugees.

Shortly after the organization began assisting with refugees it added immigration services in 1981. Included in those services was aid to the disabled and the Utah Immigration Project. Both immigrants and refugees are facing a new environment but they are coming from vastly different situations. Immigrants are choosing to resettle in a new location whereas refugees are being forced to leave their homes and find a new one, according to Although they don’t all come from the same situations they need some of the same assistance.

“Refugees and immigrants have the same difficulties adapting … they have a hard time with the language, the weather and the feeling of being home takes a while,” Batar said. “It is important for them to understand that they have help and they are not alone in a difficult time.”

Soon after the additions of the refugee and immigration services, the organization changed its name to Catholic Community Services of Utah but the mission remained the same. According to the CCS website, that mission is “to practice gospel values of love, compassion and hope through service, support and collaboration.”

“We are a medium-sized non-profit organization that provides some great help to our community,” said Danielle Stamos, public relations and marketing director at CCS. “We will continue to expand our efforts to help in all aspects of our organization … making people’s lives easier is what we try to do.”

Stamos said CCS will continue to contribute to the needs of others by helping those weakest become strong and functioning members of the community. “Hopefully, in the future we will be able to help more people, knocking down the number of people in need,” Stamos said. That may be a harder challenge for the CCS refugee services compared to the organizations other programs. The problems come from political controversies and new policies centered on refugees. With threats of policy change and residents angry about potential safety concerns, the number of refugees getting help may be reduced.

Bradford Drake, executive director of CCS, said in a newsletter, “Even in the wake of this uncertainty, CCS continues to do what we have always done — provide help and hope to those most in need.”

Drake wanted to reassure the staff, volunteers and those who receive assistance from CCS, that the organization will continue to help refugees transition into a new country, culture and lifestyle.

Of course, any organization is only as good as their volunteers, Stamos said. Without volunteers CCS would never be able to reach its full potential. So, if you want to get involved with some volunteer work, the website lists multiple opportunities. One can volunteer to assist refugees, or monetary donations are always welcome.

With all the challenges facing people today, it’s nice for people to know a resource like Catholic Community services is available to assist them.


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Refugees can be overwhelmed when first arriving to Salt Lake City

Story and photos by HAYDEN S. MITCHELL

Utah became home to 1,200 refugees in 2016. All of them were people fleeing their home countries because of persecution, violence or war. They left behind families, friends and a place they had spent the majority of their lives. Somewhere they considered home, according to a PBS story.

“These people are not leaving because they want to,” said Aden Batar, a refugee who fled Somalia in 1994 with his family and resettled in Utah. “They are facing tough conditions as they flee because they would rather go than face the danger in their country.”

Any refugee coming to the United States, specifically Utah, is stepping into a completely new environment. They are starting their lives over again. The process of creating a new home can be a challenge for lots of New Americans. Batar said that some of the biggest challenges are the differences in language, the change in weather and finding affordable housing and a job.

Gerald Brown, assistant director of the Refugee Services Office, said, “It’s tough to rely on a safety net in Utah … refugees need to become self-sufficient in order to succeed.”

Becoming familiar with the new surroundings and getting comfortable with a different language is a priority when first arriving, Brown said.

They are initially greeted by a caseworker who has been assigned to them. The caseworker then takes them to a house, which has been furnished and readied for arrival. After the refugees see where they will be living, the caseworker assigned to assist the family will continue to help them as much as possible. It is important that the refugees feel like they have help and support through their transition. The goal for a caseworker is to get New Americans to self-sufficiency, which is when the refugee gets to the point of being able to provide for themselves or their family without assistance.

“We are the first face they see,” said Danielle Stamos, public relations and marketing director at Catholic Community Services of Utah in Salt Lake City, located at 745 E. 300 South. “It is important that we make them feel welcomed and relaxed. They have a lot going on and we want to make sure that they are not on their own.”

The refugee process can be difficult, but with the help of organizations like the Refuge Services Office and CCS it can become less of a burden. Help comes in a variety of forms for New Americans not only through organizations. Family, friends, faith, community and volunteers all help the process of integrating into a new home.

“Volunteers are amazing. They understand how much their time and effort helps these people,” Batar said. “The refugees appreciate all the help they get and the volunteers enjoy helping someone create a new home.”

Here are some results from the St. Vincent de Paul donation drive held in early November 2017.

Children at the school and members of the parish donated canned goods and other goodies for Thanksgiving.

There are many ways to get involved and help with the refugee process. If you want to be a positive impact on these people’s lives, here are a few ways that you can help out,  according to and

  • The Refugee Family Mentor Program pairs volunteers with refugee families who are now living in Salt Lake City. Volunteers will guide these families through areas such as education, health care and accessing local resources. The most important aspect of this program is that volunteers become friends with these New Americans.
  • Joining the Know Your Neighbor Volunteer Program will allow you to mentor New Americans and help them become a part of the community. This program is run through the Salt Lake City Office of Diversity and Human Rights. Jennifer Seelig, the director of community relations, oversees the program.
  • Donating supplies, food and money can often be the simplest yet most effective way to give back. The International Rescue Committee is an organization looking for donations to help it provide newly arrived refugees with the basics they will need to start over. Some supplies that are most needed are baby products, toiletries and hygiene products.
  • KUTV lists some drop off locations:
    • Lincoln Elementary School, 3700 S. 450 East, Salt Lake City.
    • International Rescue Committee, 221 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City. Donations can be made between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. with advance notice. To set up a time contact Jesse Sheets, IRC development coordinator, at
    • Catholic Community Services accepts donations Monday through Thursday at the CCS Sharehouse, 440 S. 400 West in Salt Lake City. If you don’t want to travel, monetary donations may be made online.

Helping someone in need can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, Danielle Stamos said. Organizations and volunteers help can make all the difference in the world. Helping refugees is not only appreciated but it can also be rewarding for the volunteers. It can provide a new life experience for donating their time to help and give them a new perspective on the world.

“Volunteers help us reach our full potential as an organization,” Stamos said. “They allow us to provide more help to those in need.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America step up to help refugees

Story and photos by KATIE UNDESSER

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America are making a positive impact on the refugee community by providing open activities for them to enjoy. Refugees come into a new country and more often than not do not know anyone. According to statistics from UNHCR an extraordinary 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

The Boys and Girls Club of Sugarhouse located at 968 Sugarmont Drive offers several after-school programs.

During the day while the parents are at work the kids are either in school or at an after-school activity.

Ghufran, a refugee from Iraq, said, “While my parents are at work I have nothing to do but to sit by myself so I try to find things to keep myself busy. On Wednesdays, I am able to go bowling with some friends. I am a manager at Burger King and go to the Boys and Girls Club.”

Ghufran, who is 17, arrived in the United States in January 2017. She was fortunate enough to be educated in English years before arriving, which made her resettlement a little easier.

According to Brian Grace, who worked for Catholic Community Services (CCS) for a year as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program, “Every story is different. You get some people like Ghufran who spoke English before they came here and succeed in school and have a plan for college. Then you have others that never spoke a word of English before they got here and are a senior in high school and they aren’t going to graduate.”

Amira, a refugee from a city in western Syria called Homs, said, “I first came to the States not knowing anyone. It was hard making friends. My mentor set me and my brothers up with the Boys and Girls Club to help us socialize more. I hadn’t heard of this place before and we had nothing like it back in Homs.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) mission statement says, “To enable all young people, especially those who need us the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens.”

Refugees such as Ghufran and Amira opened up to the possibilities that the BGCA could offer them and their siblings. There are eight locations throughout the Greater Salt Lake area.

BGCA takes part in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in coordination with any school district and city council not only in Utah, but all across America to help families who are considered low income. This act essentially helps refugees and those with low incomes come to the Boys and Girls Club for free to use their amenities.

The BGCA has several grant-funded programs including Power Hour: Making Minutes Count, Career Launch, CyberSafety and Healthy Habits.

According to BGCA, Power Hour: Making Minutes Count provides Club professionals with the strategies, activities, resources and information to create an engaging homework help and tutoring program that encourages Club members of every age to become self-directed learners.

The playground at the Boys and Girls Club of Sugarhouse creates a space for children to get some recreation.

Along with the programs listed, the BGCA offers leadership programs, community service programs, resume help and skill building for job seeking.

Since Ghufran’s arrival in Salt Lake City, she has learned to be a successful manager at Burger King and has a plan for after high school. Ghufran is currently a senior at Murray High School and plans to pursue her college education at Salt Lake Community College after she travels for a couple of months.

“The Boys and Girls Club helped me build my resume for college and receive scholarships so it could even be possible for me to go to college. I am planning on traveling after high school, but I am sad it has to be in the States. I do not have [a] green card yet to travel. Then I plan on going to SLCC (Salt Lake Community College) for two years and then the U (The University of Utah),” Ghufran said.

Amira, who is 17, is currently a junior in high school. She arrived in Salt Lake City in March 2016 with little-to-no English skills. Amira is continuing to go to BGCA to receive the benefits from attending. Her English has gotten better over the year but she wants to improve it more.

The refugee experience: Integrating into American society

Story and photo by BLAKE HANSEN

Outside the Catholic Community Services building, refugees and others sit, waiting for help.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported in its “Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2017” that the number of people in need of resettlement for the calendar year will surpass 1.19 million. This number is the equivalent of the number of residents inside of Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties. The number of refugees in desperate need of relocation equals the same number of people who reside from Draper all the way through Ogden, a distance of about 60 miles.

Many refugees who have been granted relocation to America, specifically to Utah, have a hard time integrating into a vastly different society. But with help of local organizations it is possible to successfully integrate.

The trek out of danger is only the first step for refugees, though. According to various statements made by refugees in an article by The Independent, they arrive in these safe zones. Some are injured, starved, alone, scared and all have suffered extreme loss. They settle in refugee camps where conditions are horrible.

The process to get resettled somewhere can take years, according to the UNHCR. Some people spend the rest of their lives in refugee camps because the lengthy and intense resettlement process can’t even handle the amount of people left without a country to call home. Kids who grow up in these refugee camps have little to no access to education. Doctors and lawyers who were once able to comfortably use their education and expertise to take care of their families are left building their families tin huts just to stay dry. Also, 51 percent of refugees are under 18. Many have narrowly escaped, and are without parents or siblings.

Aden Batar left Somalia with a law degree and with two of his brothers in the late 1980s. At a time when civil war took over the country, Batar and his brothers had no choice but to leave. They had to lie and disguise themselves as members of other tribes and factions just to make it past checkpoints where people were being shot and killed for trying to flee. Batar made it to Kenya alone after one of his brothers was killed for being found at a checkpoint and the other died from a sickness he got during their trek.

“Looking back, I don’t know how I did it,” he said. Batar lived in a refugee camp in Kenya and met his future wife there before finally making it to Utah in 1994. He was lucky enough to have a brother in Logan who helped with his resettlement. Batar is now the director of immigration and refugee resettlement at Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City where refugees are helped and given the tools they need to integrate.

Atem Aleu escaped from Sudan in 1987. Similarly to Batar, Aleu also fled his country with two brothers. After a lengthy trek between multiple countries, Aleu eventually ended up in Kenya in 1992 with one brother after the other died during their trek. Aleu was 8 years old. Eventually though, after years of suffering through surviving with little food and water, none at times, Aleu made it to the U.S.

“We need to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Judgement happens a lot here, people think that because you’re a refugee, you’re some sort of lower person,” Aleu said. He said his organization, which he declined to name, .helps refugees locally in Utah. “Without these organizations in place there is no one to talk to and nowhere to go for help finding jobs, transportation, appropriate housing, etc.,” he said.

Integration is a difficult and lengthy process for refugees after they have already gone through so much just to get here to the U.S. The local organizations in Utah are always looking for volunteers to help in a variety of ways. Some options include mentorship and job placement. Batar also stressed the importance of overall friendly interactions to show a welcome, safe environment where refugees are able to flourish in a new place with opportunity.


University of Utah’s Center for Research on Migration and Refugee Integration builds on success of first year

Story and photos by ZACH CARLSON

The Center for Research on Migration and Refugee Integration is housed in the University of Utah’s College of Social Work. The CRMRI is located in Caren Frost’s office.

The Center for Research on Migration and Refugee Integration opened as part of the College of Social Work at the University of Utah in 2016. Leading this center is Dr. Caren Frost. The CRMRI’s main focus is on obtaining federal grants and analyzing data that it receives from groups like the Catholic Community Services and the International Rescue Committee.

Aden Batar is himself a refugee who works with the Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City, helping to resettle refugees. With roughly 60,000 refugees here in Utah and hundred more coming each year, these two organizations are working together to help make Salt Lake City home for refugees from around the world.

Each year, the CCS helps resettle roughly 400 to 500 refugees, according to Batar. These refugees are from all over the world, with 53 percent of them migrating or hailing from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. Batar says he expects the Syrian Civil War to lead to an influx of Syrian refugees, making Syria the largest source of refugees in the coming years.

As the individuals integrate into Salt Lake City, they obtain education as well as work. Batar says that about 85 percent of refugees become self-sufficient within six months of arriving in Utah. While most parents don’t pursue a higher education once arriving, their children are more likely to go to college, says Caren Frost of the CRMRI.

No information is collected on how many refugees go to the U, but the CRMRI estimates that there are at least 500 students with refugee backgrounds. The CRMRI describe itself as active with students on campus, but it thinks it can always be more involved. It finds itself interacting more with younger children in junior high and high schools, Frost says.

Over the summer of 2017, the CRMRI hosted a workshop at the U for about 25 high school seniors from the Salt Lake Valley who were interested in college. Delva Hommes, the administrative manager for CRMRI, says it had a broad range of students, with some having been in America from two months to two years. The students spoke about a dozen different languages.

Students who attended the summer workshop. Photo courtesy of Delva Hommes.

Volunteers discussed with the students what different aspects of college and campus life are like at the U, why they think the students should go there, and how to help them achieve their goals. The CRMRI hopes to do similar workshops every summer, Frost says.

Frost writes grants and articles, and analyzes data for the CRMRI. “We have information about what country the refugees are coming from, how long they were in camps, what languages they speak, what are their healthcare needs,” Frost says. “We also have information about jobs that they have once they get here, how much they’re getting paid per hour, what other training needs they might have.”

CRMRI celebrated its first year at the U in August 2017. Frost described the program’s first year as “fact finding,” citing repetitive redundancy, also known as tautology where the same idea is said twice but with different words, as an issue that it deals with often. Because it is trying to put people in touch with others, she says it can sometimes be a challenge to coordinate and work with everyone’s schedules.

The hallway leading to the CRMRI, which is on the second floor of the College of Social Work.

The research center has three main goals for its second year. First, Frost says “working to define integration. This isn’t just trying to get refugees to assimilate,” she says, “but to encourage a two-way exchange of ideas about different values, different cultural systems, between refugees and those hosting them.”

Her second goal for the center is to create a geospatial map of the Salt Lake Valley. An earlier draft of this was created for the Refugee Women’s Committee, which Frost has chaired for more than five years, she said in a subsequent email interview. This map pinpoints where these women lived in the Valley, the public transportation routes near them, where libraries are and where they can go to get health and dental care.

With this, researchers can see where people are versus the resources individuals need. Frost says these women are in a sort of “resource desert.” The medical care they need is far away, and in case of an emergency those without vehicles might not get the necessary medical attention, Frost says. Frost is looking to further enhance this project by working with individuals within the Department of Geography and with the Social Research Institute, to try to make something useful with this information.

The Center’s final goal of 2017-18 is trying to get more community partners to help the program and do research with it. The CRMRI is constantly learning from its partners, like the Catholic Community Services and International Rescue Committee, about each group’s on-the-ground work, Frost said in a subsequent email interview. It would really like “to be doing more cross-cutting discussions about what research actually is, what we can actually say with things, what kind of data do we actually need,” Frost says.


Community remains in the heart of Salt Lake City refugees

Story and photo by HAYDEN S. MITCHELL

All over the world refugees are fleeing their homes from violence, oppression and fear. These families are all looking for a new place to live where they can feel safe. In 2016, Utah became home to a little over 1,200 refugees from multiple countries: Iraq, Iran, the Congo, Somalia and Sudan. The New Americans are experiencing the shock and awe of a new country and culture, places that are vastly different than anything they had ever seen before, according to a PBS story.

When first coming to Utah, refugees have a variety of feelings and emotions ranging from exhilaration to fear. Two individuals, Aden Batar and Romeil Analjok, who have resettled in Utah, discussed how similar their experiences were. They were introduced to a different language, new environments, foreign foods and smells. Add to that, they said the residents of Salt Lake City dressed and acted differently than they had seen before in their home countries. This can create an overwhelming burden for any refugee.


Romeil Analjok, holding a trophy his daughter won playing basketball. Sports helped the family feel like a part of the community.

“It’s America man, of course it is going to be crazy. I did not know what to expect when my family first came here,” said Romeil Analjok, a refugee from Sudan, who created a new home for himself and his family in Utah in 2004. “Language was the biggest problem along with not knowing anybody … so I enrolled in school hoping to learn English and meet new people.”

While at school, Analjok met a couple of people whom he remains friends with today. He was grateful that they interacted with him during his first few days in class. He did not know how they would talk to him or act around him, but they treated him like everyone else, with respect. Analjok appreciated how quickly he made friends. It made the transition from Sudan to Utah easy and encouraged him that he could create a home for his family and be a part of a community once again.

“Romiel’s story is common for many [who are] moving their families,” said Francis Mannion, a priest who has seen an increase in refugee parishioners within his parish. They need somewhere to start.

For this reason, there are organizations like the International Rescue Committee or Catholic Community Services that will help new arrivals. These groups are in place to assist with the transition and make an adjustment easier for refugees coming to the United States.

In addition to established organizations, becoming part of an open and caring community is vital to helping families transition into a new community. Community allows refugees to make new friends, participate in all sorts of activities, or even worship together. Mannion made it clear that faith is not the predominant force that makes it easier for those going through the refugee process — it is community. A community can hold people up when they struggle the most.

“Every week in Sudan, we gathered with our friends and family, just celebrating everything good we had in life,” Analjok said. “I was happy to be a part of something every week … it gave me something to look forward to.”

Analjok said he felt out of sorts until he found a stable, welcoming community. He treasures it. In his community were fellow refugees from the Sudan who generously donated their time to helping him find friends and a new church, Saint Patrick’s, located at 1058 W. 400 South in Salt Lake City. Becoming involved with this church allowed Analjok some networking in the business world, eventually leading to a new job opportunity.

He said finding a new community can be a lifesaver for refugees. Without this connection, families and individuals can sometimes feel like they are on their own. Typically the countries that these refugees are coming from have a strong sense of community. They must rely on each other significantly to survive, eat and exist. This is why it can be such a challenge for refugees in America because it is solely their responsibility to provide for themselves and their families.

“Having a strong, loyal community around you will always make everything easier in life,” said Mannion, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul. “As refugee families come to church through the years, you can see the change happen. They start off nervous and still, and gradually became an active member of the community.”

Aden Batar, immigration and refugee resettlement director with Catholic Community Services, said refugees can have a hard time adjusting because they are coming from a life we have very little knowledge of. Life in countries like Iran, Sudan and Somalia is not easy. Batar, a refugee from Somalia who now helps other refugees in the resettlement process, said it is a real struggle every day for people living there to provide for their families and keep them safe. He said families are forced to flee because they are being oppressed or they fear potential threat and violence. Batar added that most people never anticipate leaving their home and are not prepared when it happens.

Such disruption can negatively impact people and even cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in many individuals, Batar said.

Analjok said, “When we came to Utah we were welcomed by a lot of refugees who came here before us.”  He reiterated the importance of community to his family’s resettlement. “They made me very comfortable and treated me well. It was also nice to see them all doing well,” he said. “It gave me hope for me and my family.”

Catholic Community Services helps refugees in Utah


Approximately 1,000 Asian refugees take solace in Utah every year, according to the State of Utah Refugee Office. Most of these refugees come from Third World Countries, and have lived in refugee camps for the majority of their lives.

The majority of these people were driven from their homes because they did not support the ruling class that was currently in power. Some refugees are from the formal ruling class and ended up living in camps because their group was thrown from power, said Linda Oda, the director of Asian Affairs in Utah.

According to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, all refugees go through a several year process before being allowed to come live in the U.S. This process involves the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration.

It usually takes about three to four generations for a refugee family to become in tune with the American way, Oda said. This transition involves learning English, taking life skills classes, learning American culture and establishing a life in the U.S.

Since 1945, the Catholic Community Services of Utah, has been helping refugee families throughout the first year of their lives in Utah.

“Utah is considered a welcoming state because we have organizations that truly advocate refugees,” Oda said.

When a refugee is relocated to Utah, their case is assigned to CCS or the International Rescue Committee. CCS and IRC are the only two agencies in the state of Utah that are allowed to handle refugee resettlements, said Rebecca Van Maren, the former assistant volunteer coordinator for CCS who also worked with Bhutanese refugees.

CCS’s work begins before the refugee or their family arrives in Utah. CCS finds out information about the family to arrange housing for the family. This information involves knowing the number of people within the family, and if they have any children, knowing the ages and gender of the children. CCS makes sure that the house is ready for the family to move in upon arrival, including fully furnishing the entire house, Van Maren said.

Van Maren said when refugees arrive, CCS sends a case manager to greet them at the airport. From the airport, the case manager then helps the refugee and their family get settled into their new housing. The refugee’s case manager’s job is to help the refugee and their family adapt to American life, and are available for the first year that the refugee is living in the U.S.

“Their case manager is primarily the person who is explaining the services that CCS provides,” Van Maren said.

CCS’s goal is to help the refugees and their families reach a state of self-sufficiency in Utah. This goal is achieved through taking classes, creating a stable life within the community and with the help of their case manager. A case manager’s help can range from signing the refugee up for classes, to explaining how to shop at a grocery store.

One of the biggest difficulties that refugees face is not being able to speak or understand English. CCS can find education classes that teach people who are 90 years old, down to small children the English language, Oda said.

“Without English these people will never get anywhere,” said Maung Maung, an Asian Advisory Council member in Salt Lake City.

CCS offers life skills classes that refugees can take. They also can coordinate volunteers and interns to mentor and visit with the families. These mentors can go to the refugee’s home to teach them basic life skills, as well.

CCS has job developers, who will work with the refugee’s case manager, to find employment for the refugee. These job developers can also help refugees write resumes in English, because a lot of CCS employees speak multiple languages, such as Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese.

They also offer a refugee foster care program for children. This program provides guardians until the child’s family can be found or until the child reaches 18 years of age.

CCS occasionally works in conjunction with other agencies in Salt Lake to provide opportunities for people from other countries, Van Maren said. Over the summer, CCS provided filing work for Koreans who were here for a three-month language learning internship, she said.

They also offer an array of assistance programs, which include help with immigration status, substance abuse treatment facilities and many facilities to help provide basic services and goods to low-income and homeless individuals all across Utah.

Mormon church lends help to refugees


Every year people throughout the world come  to the United States for something better, whether it’s opportunity, a place to live or lifestyle. Some of these people are refugees who have fled from their native countries to seek better chances in their lives.

According to the United States Department of State a refugee is a person that may be fleeing from their country to get away from war or persecution on account of race, religion, or nationality.

A refugee must first go through the requirement process to get into the United States. The process is not a short task. It can take foreigners years to gain permission to get into the United States, said Patrick Poulin, resettlement director of the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City.

Typically, refugees making the jump to the United States ride a bumpy road to success.

Elissa McConkie, resettlement operations officer for IRC, said over a telephone conversation, they usually can’t speak English. They are typically poor and most likely have little working experience. 

Seventeen IRC locations stretch across the United States. The Utah location at 231 East and 400 S. receives major help from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which takes a heavy load off for the organization.

“There are several levels of support from the LDS church,” McConkie said. “If we didn’t have support from the LDS church our job would be much more difficult. It contributes so much.”

IRC takes in refugees and attempts to start the newcomers on the right foot throughout the first few months of their stay. The agency makes the arrangements allowing the refugees to obtain food, jobs and shelter. Staff members and volunteers contribute to the committee by helping make these necessary accommodations, and by personally working with the refugees.

Every year fluctuates on the amount of refugees from countries around the world coming into Utah. McConkie estimates there are approximately 900 that come to Utah a year. Out of those, 450 come through IRC. Catholic Community Services, a different agency located in Salt Lake City assisting refugees, receives the rest.

McConkie said the money from the government is not sufficient for what the refuges need. The federal government gives the IRC $425 for each refugee who comes in.

“That is not a lot of money,” McConkie said. “It [the church] helps us stay within our budget.”

The church grants vouchers to the refugees to Deseret Industries. The vouchers go directly to the newcomers so they can go shop themselves, McConkie said. Most of them are not used to Utah’s weather, thus, with these vouchers they can make sure they are seasonally prepared.           

“We would be purchasing these items if it wasn’t for the church,” McConkie said.

The government requires that refugees contain certain necessities in their homes, such as hygiene and basic foods. The church provides these products at cheaper costs through theWelfare Square mini store, which offers these certain goods at cheaper costs.

Most importantly, the LDS church offers jobs to the refugees through Deseret Industries stores, the LDS Humanitarian Center and the manufacturing center.

“They get a sense of work,” said Poulin, IRC’s resettlement director. “It’s a great opportunity.”

When the refugees begin work, they learn a trade they can take with them when they move on. The employment received for the refugees through the church is not permanent. It lasts only a few months. They are being trained.

Not only do they receive working experience, but are assigned a mentor that works with them. The mentor follows up with the individual once the training is over.

“Our goal is for everyone in our training to have a mentor,” said John Yancey, LDS Humanitarian Center assistant manager, during a telephone conversation. “That person is not only helping to look for jobs after training here, but housing and other things in life.”  

McConkie said the church hires people on a monthly basis, but it does depend on the time of year. She also said the training grounds for the refugees are very supportive environments.

“They can learn what’s expected of them,” McConkie said. “They are so excited to be working.”

A certain goal the IRC wants to achieve is not to see refugees return once they have gone through the program.

“When a refugee gets a job we don’t hear from them as much because they don’t need us as much,” McConkie said.  

And for the refugee’s sake this can happen more often than not due to the support from the LDS church.

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