As Utah Refugee Population Grows, So Does The Need For Assistance

Aug 8, 2019, 5:41 AM

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah – Waiting in long lines requires patience — especially outside on a late August afternoon just to get into a building.

At least 200 people lined up Wednesday for Refugee Day, where the Granite School District invited several organizations to help refugees feel more welcome.

“I know there’s a lot of us here,” said Aisha Mohamed as she looked back at the growing line that had to be at least 200 people deep. “I don’t know how long, but we’ve been waiting here for a long time.”

However, she would wait in an even longer line if she had to.

“I’m glad I’m here,” she said.

Mohamed knows it’s nothing compared to where she could be.

“I was born in Kakuma. In Africa,” she said. “I came here when I was 2 years old.”

Mohamed, who is now 16 years old, doesn’t remember anything about Kenya, but she has heard the stories of her parents fleeing the country to come to the United States.

“They moved here for a better life because there was war in Africa,” she said.

Their story is similar to many others in line outside the Granite School District building in South Salt Lake. Only instead of escaping violence, they’re now just trying to escape being left behind.

“When people set up a program like this, it’s helping a lot of families,” said Mohamed.

Students like Mohamaed can also pick up school supplies and new backpacks for free at Refugee Day.

“We’re serving more refugees than any other school district in the state,” said Steven Powell, who is part of the Granite School District communications team. “It’s something we’re so happy to be a part of, to add that diversity to our community.”

School supplies and backpacks are just one part of Refugee Day.

There were also vision screenings, dental checkups, voting information, and many other refugee groups set up to help both children and adults.

“It’s perfect,” said one father with delight as he tried on a pair of glasses to help him see better close up.

For Mohamed and her eight siblings, it’s a chance to get a head start for the upcoming school year.

“It’s really important because there are a lot of families who can’t provide school supplies, even though they’re hard-working,” she said. “My parents work really hard but it can be expensive.”

Mohamed is thankful for the help, but she also knows immigration is a sensitive subject in America right now.

She says she hears about it all the time.

“It hurts me because this is our home,” she said. “We’re legal citizens of the United States of America. And it hurts when people say to go home because this is our home just like any other person.”

Like any other person, she just wants an opportunity to succeed. She knows education is the key to get there.

“If it wasn’t for this program, I don’t think we would be able to get school supplies and backpacks,” she said.

It makes the line she was in not seem so long.

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As Utah Refugee Population Grows, So Does The Need For Assistance