Utah Refugee Connection helps refugees build new life


People around the world are displaced, but only some get refugee status in the U.S.

“Coming to the U.S. is something that is an opportunity only provided to a very small number of refugees,” Stacey Shaw, a School of Social Work professor who researches refugee resettlement, said.

Shaw said refugees only have a few months to adjust to a new life in a new country. 

“They’re kind of navigating that adjustment very quickly. They’re learning to speak English, they’re learning how to navigate health systems, and educational systems, and school systems, transportation and all those things are kind of like the firehose approach,” she said.

Utah Refugee Connection works with other nonprofit organizations and refugees in the community to identify and fill those needs.

“The way that we operate is, we partner with a lot of other nonprofits that are teaching classes like citizenship, English, computer skill classes,” Amy Dott Harmer, executive director of Utah Refugee Connection, said.

After individuals attend 16 hours of classes, they receive a voucher to get items from the Utah Refugee Sharehouse. 

“Items that we offer, they cannot be purchased with food stamps,” Harmer said.

These include items such as menstrual supplies, basic cleaning and household items and car seats.

Harmer shared how people’s basic needs must be met in order for them to give their best selves back to the community.

“As a community, we need to embrace those people who are coming in,” she said. “It really does bless our community when we welcome and embrace diversity and those that are fleeing conflict.”

Both Harmer and Shaw said they believe embracing diversity empowers us to be a more complete community.

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