Center seeks volunteers to help refugees acclimate to new life in Utah

Posted at 5:26 PM, Jan 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-09 23:54:23-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Many make long, treacherous journeys across the ocean to the United States to escape their war-torn countries. Saturday, the Utah Refugee Education and Training Center was trying to recruit more volunteers to help refugees settle into their new home.

Refugees from all over the world were sharing their stories, culture, food and traditions with local residents who want to learn how they can help families settle into their new country.

“You meet people with incredible stories: People that are heroes, people that have survived things that you and I can’t even imagine,” said Gerald Brown, director of Refugee Services for the Department of Workforce Services.

Refugees escape their countries due to religious, racial, political and/or ethnic persecution.

Many who come to Utah do not speak English and have to start a whole new life.

“They are the epitome of human resilience,” Brown said.

But it takes help from volunteers, and a lot of those volunteers are neighbors and average Utah citizens.

“If they have American friends, then they feel connected to the community, and there’s hope for success,” Brown said.

The Utah Refugee Education and Training Center hosted an open house to give residents the opportunity to learn about how they can help refugees assimilate into Utah.

“I’ve just wanted to get a lot more involved with the recent refugee crisis and knowing that refugees are coming here, we know that there are needs that need to be met,” said Krystal Bodily, who came to learn about the volunteer programs.

Several non-profit organizations, including Promise South Salt Lake, helps refugee teens adjust to life at American schools.

“We try to help refugees acclimate to our academic standards, to speaking English in schools, and also just building social skills and developmental skills,” said Bonnie Owens, a coordinator with Promise South Salt Lake.

Refugees were sharing their cultures at the event. Leonia and Rosette, from the Congo region of Africa, were selling handmade jewelry. They say they’re happy they can finally live a life free of conflict.

“America is good because we have peace,” Rosette said. “Because our country has war - people - they don’t have peace.”

The organization is always looking for more volunteers. For more information, click here.