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Putting down new roots

Refugees fleeing their war-torn countries, some with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, are searching for shelter in other countries.

Shannon Stephens, the recruitment and program assistant for the International Student and Scholar Center, said 150 individuals will be resettled in the Weber County area from Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Refugees will have new homes in Ogden and will have a way to start over after leaving there home countries.
The International Student and Scholar Center plans to bring 150 refugees from Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Weber County area. Photo credit: Makayla Martinez

These refugees will have new homes and a chance to start over away from the carnage they left in their home countries.

Afghans are fleeing from the Taliban rule. Stephens explained that their resettlement has been quick due to the urgent efforts to get as many people out of the country as possible. The Congolese, however, have had a longer journey.

Jenny Gnagey, who has worked with refugees with Catholic Community Services, explained how, 20 years ago, a civil war broke out in the DRC, forcing many to leave.

“I think there was one family who we resettled in 2016 that had been in the camp for 18 years,” Gnagey said. “With Congolese refugees, it tends to be that they’ve been there for a while.”

The refugees aren’t coming to Utah just to be left on their own to figure out the language, culture and how life works. They’re being set up for success. Gnagey explained how the Refugee Resettlement Program sets the refugee families up with rental houses from willing landlords and enough money to get them started on their new life in Utah. They are then provided with help in learning the language and finding jobs.

“We help set them up with housing, so they have a place to live as soon as they get here. We connect them with employers that will be willing to hire them even though they don’t speak any English yet, and also we get them set up with ESL classes so they can start learning and getting a degree or transferring their degree that they have in their country so that it counts here so they can work in that field,” Gnagey said.

Refugees will face challenges coming to a new country and the best way to support them is to be a friend.
Volunteers will be needed to help refugees facing the challenges of coming to a new country. Photo credit: Makayla Martinez

The refugees will, of course, face challenges, but Gnagey said the best way to help them transition is to be a friend. Not a friend that does everything for them, but a friend who is there to help.

For those interested, the center is also looking for volunteers for various service opportunities such as setting up apartments, locating housing, tutoring, culture adjustment and transportation needs. They are also searching for those who can help with translation in languages such as Arabic, French, Swahili and Farsi.

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Lexie Andrew
Lexie Andrew, Culture editor

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