5 organizations you can work with to aid refugees — in Utah and beyond

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BYU grad Hayley Smith founded Lifting Hands International after volunteering at a refugee camp and seeing firsthand what refugees are most in need of.

They come to Utah after being forced to flee from Iraq, Burma, Somalia and Syria. Mostly women and children, they’ve been persecuted for their religion, race or nationality. In our state alone, there are 60,000 refugees from more than 20 countries. And according to top LDS Church leaders, they need our help.

“These individuals have undergone tremendous difficulties and are starting over in new countries and cultures,” said Relief Society General President Linda K. Burton at the recent LDS general conference. “… What they need is a friend and ally who can help them adjust to their new home, a person who can help them learn the language, understand the systems and feel connected.”

With this call to action — and with the subsequent launch of the website and relief effort “I Was a Stranger” — Utahns have been searching for ways to aid refugees both locally and internationally. Here are five organizations you can work with to help refugees near and far.

Lifting Hands International

BYU grad Hayley Smith founded Lifting Hands International after volunteering at Moria Camp in Lesvos, Greece, and seeing firsthand what refugees are most in need of. Through LHI, you can aid refugees across the globe in three ways:

Utah Refugee Center

The Utah Refugee Center recently launched an app — “Serve Refugees” — complete with informative videos and articles, service opportunities and donation lists. Through this organization, you can:

  • Volunteer: Work with a refugee youth soccer program, assemble hygiene kits, serve at a world refugee day festival, help in the administrative offices or participate in a variety of other volunteer programs.
  • Advocate: Raise awareness of the refugee populations by sharing their stories.
  • Join or start a group service project: Assemble backpacks for refugee students, start a children’s clothing drive, collect household supplies or help furnish or refurbish a home or apartment.
  • Donate.

Utah Refugee Services Office

The Utah Refugee Services Office helps ensure refugees are successfully integrated into the communities where they live by connecting them with the mainstream community and quality employment. Through the Refugee Services Office, you can connect with refugees in a variety of ways:

  • World Refugee Day: On Saturday, June 4, join with refugees for a fun and educational community event, including cultural entertainment, global market, food, kids activities and more!
  • Donate money: Donations to the Utah Refugee Services Fund help support rent and housing assistance, refugee youth programs and other needs.
  • Volunteer time and skills: There are many opportunities to volunteer your time and skills to assist with youth programs, mentoring or employment.

United Way

United Way connects Utah residents looking to give or receive help with valuable information about health and human services.

  • Volunteer: Mentor a refugee family or teen, drive refugees to appointments, teach English as a second language or tutor at an after-school program. United Way’s volunteer webpage lists dozens of refugee-related service opportunities.
  • Donate items: Local refugees are in need of toiletries, household supplies, diapers, feminine hygiene products and hygiene kits. Items can be dropped off at Department of Workforce Services employment centers or Catholic Community Services, or contact refugeeoffice@utah.gov for more locations.
  • Donate money: Donations to the Utah Refugee Services Fund help support rent and housing assistance, refugee youth programs and other needs.

Refugee & Immigrant Center at the Asian Association of Utah

This private, nonprofit, community-based organization serves more than 2,000 refugees, immigrants and other community members each year. The RIC-AAU aims to help clients become more self-sufficient in their daily lives and to reduce the barriers that refugees and immigrants face when adapting to life in the U.S.

  • Volunteer: Work with an early literacy program, mentor a single mother, assist in an English class or support the RIC-AAU’s office work.
  • Fundraise.
  • Donate.
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Ashley Dickson is a Virginia native now living in Boston. She graduated from BYU with degrees in journalism and home and family living, then spent three years writing and editing for Utah Valley Magazine. She left the mountain West to earn a master's degree in library science and now splits her time between motherhood, editing for a financial research firm, and keeping a connection to Utah by writing for UtahValley360.

One Comment

  1. John Purnell Reply

    Refugee Action Network is a Utah Valley-based non-profit, currently being established by 3 brothers, who are all BYU Alumni. Watch for a website to be available soon for opportunities to DONATE, HOST & VOLUNTEER to empower refugees in Utah County to become self-sufficient.

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