Every year, thousands of refugees are forced from their homes and some make their way to the United States in search of a safer life. Each year, charitable organizations resettle only 1,200 refugees in Utah. Many will find jobs, but they’ll only earn an average of $9 per hour, or $18,720 annually based on a 40-hour work week, placing them well below the federal poverty level ($24,300 for a family of four).
Statistically, the amount of refugees that need our help in Utah is not proportional to the amount of general interest in aiding refugees in our communities, but have you considered the number of immigrants in Utah? What’s the difference between refugees and immigrants? One of the main differences between immigrants and refugees is that immigrants choose to leave and refugees are forced out but most people don’t recognize that immigrants and refugees are very similar. Many immigrants face similar challenges as refugees and really aren’t that different from refugees. They too leave unsuitable situations in hopes to live a better life in America.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that in 2015 over 400,000 immigrants lived in Utah, and in Utah County alone, the first-generation immigrant community numbers were 38,000. There are many programs and agencies already in place to help immigrants integrate into their community. These families take up 8.2% of the state’s population and own businesses, create jobs, boost our housing values and are a large part of the labor force. By helping both refugees and immigrants, we can help our economy as we assist in helping them adjust to their new home.
Here is a list of organizations dedicated to helping immigrants:
While there is a much greater need to help immigrants in our community, our population of refugees needs your assistance too. Here are some ways you can help:
The simplest way is through donating. Refugees need everything from household basics to clothing to furniture. While the traditional method is to bring in a box of canned goods to the food bank, most charities today would much rather take monetary donations. “Find well-managed charities in your community and trust them to know how to do their job,” writes Slate contributor Matthew Iglesias. “They have access to food at a fraction of the price and know their clients…”.
Here is a list of Organizations dedicated to Refugees that Community Action Recommends:
- Department of Workforce Services
- Catholic Community Services
- Asian Association of Utah (help immigrants as well)
- The International Rescue Committee
What if you want to volunteer? Your time is just as valuable as monetary donations. Organizations need long-term volunteers in a variety of tasks:
- Mentoring, for families and individuals
- Teaching job skills (especially interviewing and job seeking)
- Tutoring in English
- Befriending refugees
- Teaching financial planning
- Driving refugees around the area
- Working at a food bank
Not all help is helpful. Donating isn’t an opportunity to rid yourself of unwanted clutter, and there are many items refugees don’t need (there’s even a hashtag for it: #SWEDOW; which stands for stuff we don’t want), including:
- Old baby carriers
- Used school supplies
- Large furniture, including big desks, bookcases, and dressers
- Used cleaning supplies, including vacuums
- Used pillows
- Old computers
- Wall decor
- Old toys
These are just a few ways you can help refugees in Utah. If you are looking for an experience to befriend someone in a difficult situation, the Circles Initiative is a great way to lend a hand. This is a year-long program that pairs mentoring individuals or couples with families in poverty. You can help others in need by teaching them healthy habits and setting goals to create a better life for them and their families. We are always looking for volunteers throughout the year. While Community Action and the Circles Initiative are not dedicated to refugee relief, we will gladly accept refugees as clients. We encourage you to educate yourself about our community and learn the real needs in your neighborhoods and different ways for you to help not only refugees but immigrants as well.