Utah community helps thousands of refugee children with back-to-school supplies

Aug 11, 2023, 6:35 PM | Updated: 6:46 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah community showed up in a big way to provide back to school supplies for refugee children.

The line of families stretched around the block at Granite Park Junior High School on Monday evening as refugees attended a back-to-school supply drive.

The Utah Refugee Connection hosts the event every year, connecting refugee families with backpacks, eye care, and other resources.

When KSL spoke with its executive director, Amy Dott, at the end of July she was worried they wouldn’t have enough backpack supplies.

Little children with colorful backpack

Donations helped provide thousands of children backpacks and school supplies for the 2023 school year. (Erin Cox/KSL TV)

“About ten days ago we had about 800 backpacks and we needed to have at least 2,000 backpacks,” Dott said.

Dott reached out to KSL TV for help spreading the word, and within days of the news report, she said she saw supplies flooding in.

“One day we had 1,000 come in and the next day we had 1,600 come in one day,” Dott said.
In the end, nearly 5,000 backpacks full of supplies were provided for refugee kids.

“It’s really overwhelming to see how much our community stepped up to the plate once they knew what the need was,” Dott said.

Sabrina Mohamed and three of her four kids go to the backpack event every year.

“It means our kids will be ready,” Mohamed said. “It makes a big difference.”

Having access to community help for her kids is a stark contrast to Mohamed’s own childhood. Mohamed was born and raised in a refugee camp in Kenya until she moved to the U.S. at 10 years old.

“There it’s whatever you have is what you have. You don’t get choices,” Mohamed said.

In Utah, her kids get to choose what to eat, who to play with and which backpack they want. Close to 2,000 refugee kids chose their own backpack at the event.

The extra supplies go to various high schools with refugee populations across the Wasatch Front, along with other refugee providers. More than 200 eye screenings for kids were provided and 1,800 shoe vouchers were distributed by the Salt Lake County Library.

In efforts to connect law enforcement with refugees, the Utah Department of Public Safety handed out 900 Creamies and played games with the kids.

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Utah community helps thousands of refugee children with back-to-school supplies