SALT LAKE CITY — The first wave of Afghan refugees could be arriving in Utah next week, and organizations are busy gathering donations and other items to help make that transition as seamless as possible.
On Wednesday, Catholic Community Services of Utah released an Amazon Wish List, asking Utahns to help welcome the influx of people.
At the Utah Refugee Center Wednesday evening, a class of more than a dozen people learned about public speaking.
The 18-week leadership course, that Refugee Services says is held in partnership with the Salt Lake Community College and American Express, aims to help refugees learn skills to help them succeed at work and in their communities.
The group is made up of people from countries like Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and Iraq.
Not only does the course help build skills for success, but State of Utah Refugee Services Office Director Asha Parekh said it helps build a community of support.
"One of the great things that happens, is I think they talk about challenges and issues in their community and learn that many of these communities have very similar challenges," she shared. "So they become resources for each other through that process."
The Utah Refugee Center is about to get a whole lot busier, as they prepare for exactly 765 Afghan refugees to arrive in Utah.
Parekh isn't sure how many will land in Salt Lake City at one time, but her understanding is that they'll arrive in a 6-month-or-so window that begins in October.
"We're hopeful that they don't all arrive at once," Parekh said, with a chuckle. "And we anticipate that they will start arriving in the next week or so."
Parekh explained that the influx will create a challenge, which is why a state task force is working with several organizations and community partners to gather resources and expertise.
Catholic Community Services of Utah is one of the organizations busily preparing for individuals and families who will call Utah home. The Amazon Wish List released Wednesday includes items like car seats, microwaves, pots and pans, silverware, rice cookers, bedding, towels, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and diapers.
The state, Parekh said, is looking at setting up one, easy way for the public to make a donation. She said they plan to have more information on that in the coming weeks.
Parekh added that the Utah Refugee Center will be offering their classes and trainings once the new group is settled in. This includes ESL classes, job trainings, computer trainings, and digital literacy classes.
It's all part of building success and support for the hundreds about to call Utah, home.
Utahns have been eager to jump in and help, Parekh indicated.
"Just being very grateful, for the generosity of people in Utah," she expressed, "and appreciative that they're willing to reach out and want to help refugees, and especially this group."