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How to help our Afghan neighbors in Utah

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A woman kneels at the top of two steps, reaching out to hand a boy in his mother's arms a toy car provided by volunteers of the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City.

Join us as we work to reach out to Afghan families living in Utah and prepare for families who will arrive in the coming weeks and months.

Photo: James Roh

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City is working alongside communities and partners to support Afghans living in Utah and ensuring a warm welcome for those families soon to arrive in the coming weeks and months.

In recent months, the IRC has provided emergency reception and processing support to hundreds of Afghan Special Immigrants (ASIs) who were evacuated to a U.S. government facility in Virginia. As the situation in Afghanistan becomes more urgent, the IRC in Salt Lake City is proactively reaching out to Afghan families living in Utah to ensure their needs are met while making necessary preparations to welcome new families to the Beehive State.

As the emergency response grows to meet the needs of ASIs fleeing to safety, the IRC has identified areas of immediate need to address, including:

  • Additional trauma-informed counseling and psychosocial support
  • Securing permanent housing
  • Increased case management to support positive integration
  • Family reunification efforts via immigration pathways
  • Identifying added Dari and Pashto interpreters

Here are five ways you & your community can help!

  1. Give. Make a one-time donation or start your monthly contribution to ensure vital programming and services maintain capacity for Afghan families and other refugees arriving to Utah. Donate now »
  2. Volunteer. Join us as a housing support volunteer to set up new homes for our newest neighbors or lend your time and skills in other ways. Sign up today »
  3. Gather supplies. Ensure families arriving to Utah after a long journey have the basic supplies they need to begin rebuilding their lives. Organize a supply drive with your friends, family and coworkers or make a purchase directly from our General Wish List or our Welcome Home Wish List.
  4. Advocate. Raise your voice as we call on the U.S. do everything possible to immediately facilitate safe and orderly departure for all eligible U.S.-affiliated persons in need of safety and protection. Take action »
  5. Raise awareness. Help those around you learn about the unfolding humanitarian crisis happening in Afghanistan and the implications for families living in our community. Learn more here and here.

Receive the latest updates and notifications on opportunities to get involved by signing up for our newsletter or following us on Facebook and Instagram

Questions? See our Frequently Asked Questions below or contact us at SaltLakeCity [at] Rescue.org to learn more.

Read more: 

Help Afghanistan: What do Afghans need now?

- The world cannot afford to turn its back on Afghanistan and Afghan lives at risk. Here’s a look at what Afghans need right now and what can be done to help.

"My life was in danger": How Afghan allies seek safety in the U.S.

- Two men resettled under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to support Afghan allies discuss their fears for those left behind.

FAQs

Who are Afghan Special Immigrants? How many are coming? When are they arriving? 

Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders are the individuals and their immediate families who have worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan providing services such as translation and interpretation. The Afghan SIV program was created to protect Afghan civilians as Afghanistan became more dangerous for those affiliated with the U.S. People arriving in the U.S. under the Afghan SIV program undergo an approval and application process and receive support from a resettlement agency, like the IRC, to rebuild their lives in the U.S. 

Learn more about the Afghan SIV program here » 

Governor Cox has expressed his support in welcoming those fleeing Afghanistan to Utah. Currently, we don’t know how many Afghan refugees will arrive in Utah, but we know that the U.S. is processing large numbers of individuals and families to be resettled. We expect to welcome Afghan refugees to Utah in the coming weeks and months.  

How can I volunteer my time? 

The highest priority volunteer positions right now are Housing Support Volunteer and IRC Tech Squad Volunteer. Our volunteer opportunities are built to provide capacity and support in specific areas of our work to help us best be of service to the refugees, asylees, immigrants and New Americans in Utah. 

To ensure the safety and wellbeing of the people we serve, IRC volunteers are required to pass a background check, attend a volunteer orientation, complete role-specific training, and commit to several months of service. Due to increased interest from the community, our volunteer orientations are full through October. The anticipated wait to be placed into a volunteer position currently is 3-6 months, though this could change rapidly as Afghan families begin arriving to Utah. Add your information to our Volunteer Orientation Interest Form to be the first to know about the next orientation.  

Learn more about volunteering with the IRC in Salt Lake City here » 

For those interested in one-time volunteer opportunities, view our website for group volunteering opportunities » 

I’m a current volunteer. Can I change my current volunteer position to work with a different program? 

If you would like to switch from your current volunteer position to one of the high-priority volunteer opportunities, email VolunteerSLC [at] Rescue.org.  

I have emailed the IRC in Salt Lake City. When should I expect to receive a response? 

Thank you for your interest in supporting and learning more about the IRC in Salt Lake City. At this time, we are responding to an overwhelmingly generous number of inquiries and may take a little longer to respond. We are working to swiftly respond to inquiries in the order they were received. We are grateful for your efforts to connect and for your patience and understanding in our delayed response.

I can’t volunteer. How can I support instead? 

If you are unable to volunteer or want to support in other ways while waiting to start volunteering, please reference the list above or review the ideas below: 

  • Shop at one of New Roots-operated farmer's markets to support local immigrant and refugee farmers and gardeners. Learn more at NewRootsSLC.org » 
  • Support the food entrepreneurs at Spice Kitchen Incubator: order Spice to Go, a Community Food Box, or request Spice Kitchen catering for your next event. Learn more at SpiceKitchenIncubator.org » 
  • Hold a DIY fundraiser and collect funds for the IRC in Salt Lake City through various creative ways! Learn more » 

Can I house people arriving from Afghanistan? 

At this time, the IRC is not able to temporarily house the arriving Afghan families in shared homes. Though the IRC regularly uses hotels and private Airbnbs for temporary accommodations while permanent housing is being secured, we cannot accept offers of shared housing for reasons related to a few important internal policies. First, the IRC follows all federal, state, and local government housing standards to ensure client safety and comfort, and booking private spaces ensures these standards are routinely upheld.  On top of these government standards, the IRC has also found that private spaces help individuals and families feel safe and make the best start after experiencing challenging times. Lastly, the IRC has many COVID-19 protocols in place to keep new arrivals and community members healthy, and private spaces remain the safest option for everyone.   

If you have a private, separate space such as a guesthouse or rental apartment in or near Salt Lake County, you can offer this space through Airbnb’s Open Homes initiative where you can list your space for no cost. Our office routinely uses this resource to place new arrivals temporarily, and we welcome new spaces that become available in our community. You can learn more about this effort here » 

We are also collecting information from community members who have an unoccupied house or apartment for rent or to donate on a short-term or long-term lease in Salt Lake County or nearby. You can add your property to our Housing Availability Form here » 

Contact us at SaltLakeCity [at] Rescue.org for further questions regarding housing.  

Are there donated items you cannot accept?  

The IRC in Salt Lake City provides the refugees we serve the basic items needed to rebuild their lives in the U.S. with dignity. We accept items based on need for the populations we serve, the limitations of our storage spaces, and the item’s quality. The highest priority items right now are hygiene and cleaning items, laptops, TVs and gift cards. Please view the Rescue.org/DonateSLC page for more details about in-kind donations. 

I have an employment opportunity. How can I employ refugees and people arriving from Afghanistan? 

We appreciate the interest in providing employment opportunities to our newest neighbors. Please note that the employment location should be central to the Salt Lake City area and close to public transportation. To further discuss an opportunity to employ newly arrived refugees, please email us at SaltLakeCity [at] Rescue.org.  

Can I foster unaccompanied refugee minors? 

The IRC does not oversee the refugee foster care program in Utah. Catholic Community Services oversees the refugee foster program in the state. You can learn more about the program they offer, the upcoming training dates, and find a point of contact who can answer additional questions here » 

Is there anything more I can do? 

Yes! Make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook @IRCSaltLakeCity to be the first to hear updates and learn about other ways to support. Sign up for our newsletter to hear more about what our work looks like each month and to receive the latest news and stories from us and the people we serve.