To Members of First Unitarian Church from the Refugee Resettlement Committee (RRC)

27 September 2018

Thank you for supporting the RRC activity helping refugees resettle in SLC. Your support, whether physical, vocal or financial, has improved lives of more refugees than we will ever know. 

In years prior to the Trump administration, RRC volunteers annually set up housing on average for more than 250 arriving refugees a year, over 40 families a year, average family size of 6, mostly children. In the first year of the Trump administration, 165 new refugees began life in Salt Lake City in RRC set up housing, 165 people, 28 families. In the past 5 years, RRC housed refugees arrived from 19 countries. RRC volunteers together have donated, annually, several hundred hours and thousands of miles: to the collection of donations (an average of over 130 a year) from throughout the greater Salt Lake City area and as far away as Logan, Ogden, Park City and Lehi; to the setting up of housing for new refugees sponsored by the IRC; and to the tending to the furniture, household furnishings, appliance and other life needs of existing refugee families some IRC sponsored and some not. 

From conversation with leaders of the SLC International Rescue Committee (the IRC), the Trump administration intends to limit refugee arrivals in the US to 18,000 this fiscal year. The SLC portion is expected to be about 300, down 50% from the 600 that arrived in SLC last year, significantly below what the RRC has served in prior years. This will mean less demand for refugee housing set up activity in the coming months, although the RRC has set up housing for 5 new families in the past few weeks. A significant portion of the SLC IRC office budget is based on a per capita refugee arrival calculation, so the IRC faces financial challenges, compounded by recent departures of three SLC experienced IRC leaders active with housing set ups and coordination of IRC volunteers. It is not clear yet what all of this will mean for opera.ons of the SLC IRC. 

In July 2017, the RRC added Bicycle and Welcome Basket Projects, each intended to deliver additional helpful products to arriving refugees and to create for RRC members, and other donors from First Church, to personally welcome and have direct contact with IRC sponsored refugees. RRC leaders believe successful resettlement is fostered by befriending refugees early, and often. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of members and friends of First Church, both projects delivered benefits. 26 families (154 individuals) from 6 countries have received Welcome Baskets, valued on average at $127. Thirteen more baskets are in storage to be delivered as families arrive. And over 30 bicycles, after tuning by RRC volunteers, were distributed, along with helmets, locks and visibility vests, to refugee families by IRC staff and RRC volunteers. Additional bikes and related equipment provided by the RRC, have been given out to refugees by IRC staff, as immediate needs presented, and more are in IRC storage inventory, awaiting distribution. Both projects encountered challenges, particularly in not being able to deliver enhanced direct refugee contact opportunities as hoped. Current national IRC policy limits direct contact with IRC sponsored refugees to IRC volunteers who have gone through a formal IRC screening and approval process, completed by many, but not all RRC volunteers or other First Church donors. And the IRC formal volunteer enrollment process and assigned volunteer utilization or follow-up activity has not met time expectations of many from First Church who have expressed interest. Hopefully the processes will improve. 

The RRC continues to solicit and collect refugee focused donations and to help meet housing set up needs for both new and other refugees. But in consideration of current IRC policies and the reduction of anticipated IRC sponsored refugee arrivals, the Welcome Basket Project will end when the current supply of baskets is depleted. The items in the baskets will be added to the list of solicited donations (new or like new items) that the RRC re- quests to then be distributed by the IRC, so refugees should still receive the things they need in their new home. RRC collection of bicycles, helmets, locks and vests, will continue to be solicited and donations collected for IRC distribution to refugee families. According to the SLC IRC, every arriving refugee family would like to receive one or more bicycles and the IRC would like to meet those expectations. The IRC currently receives donated bicycles from several sources, regularly from the Boy Scouts and the RRC, and irregularly from other donor groups and individuals. The IRC also solicits and receives donor gift cards designated for use to purchase bicycles and related equipment. 

Volunteer opportunities to participate in many IRC activities in support of refugees are available. Current high- need volunteer include: 

Family Nutrition Access (WIC) Volunteer: The IRC in Salt Lake City seeks volunteers to support our maternal & child health program by helping new and soon-to-be mothers access healthy foods. Through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) government benefit program, refugees resettled by the IRC in Salt Lake City receive food benefits to be used at the grocery store. Commitment: two 3-4-hour shifts per month for four to six months. Learn more: 

Adult ESL Tutor: The IRC in Salt Lake City seeks volunteer tutors to support English language learning among recently arrived adult refugees, typically female, who have fled persecution in their home country and are rebuild- ing their lives in Utah. Volunteer tutors will provide one-on-one and/or small group instruction, promoting English language skills needed to empower the most vulnerable of newly arrived refugees, to obtain and retain employment and achieve self-sufficiency. Commitment: two hours/week for at least six month once volunteer train- ing is complete. Learn more: 

Microbusiness Mentor: The IRC in Salt Lake City's Microbusiness Connection Center connects refugee and New American entrepreneurs to volunteers to act as mentors in addressing common obstacles that these entrepreneurs may face progressing their business and contributing to their overall self-sufficiency. Commitment: flexible, service for at least 10 weeks. Learn more: 

Tech Mentor: The technology mentor will support refugee families recently resettled into Salt Lake City area by empowering them to unlock the potential of technology. This is an opportunity for individuals to act as both a mentor and guide in navigating a new community and creating a safe space for the family to learn and grow in their technology use and English skills. Commitment: two hours/week for six weeks. Learn more: https://> 

Front Desk Volunteer: Front Desk Volunteers are the face of the IRC. Volunteers in this role greet and direct all walk-ins and phone calls to appropriate staff members. With a substantial amount of client interaction, volunteers gain practice communicating with diverse populations to find share understanding. Commitment: at least one 2-hour shifts per month; two shifts per month preferred. Learn more: front-desk-volunteer> 

These IRC do change, especially as training dates come and go. Potential volunteers should also pick their top 3 interests and men.on those in communications to the IRC or at least keep them in mind as op- .ons should one or two volunteer fill up. IRC volunteers should also keep in mind that they can change to a new volunteer opportunity once their first commitment is fulfilled. 

In August, Andrea Globokar ended her activity with the RRC, after 22 years of faithful service, and Ron Anderson and Johanna Whiteman have moved from RRC leaders to emeritus status, s.ll RRC engaged, but less so. Please personally thank Andrea, Ron and Johanna for their inspiration, dedication, leadership and exceptional service. And if you are interested in getting active in the RRC, contact me, cell phone 904-527-9773 or or one of the other members of the RRC Steering Committee, Nancy Rasmuson, Jim Wilcox, Richard Anderton and Bonnie Baty. Thank you again for thinking of the refugees through your actions or your donations, financial and otherwise, and for your continued support of the activity of the RRC. Best regards, Joe DuBray, Coordinator of the RRC.