In the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has profoundly impacted the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City: the refugee and immigrant communities we serve, our volunteers, our staff and our programs.
Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, the IRC in Salt Lake City remains committed to our mission. As the risks intensified, we adapted our programs for remote delivery, expanded our portfolio of services, and partnered with local health organizations to ensure critical information and support was reaching refugee and immigrant communities.
As we continue our response to the pandemic, the IRC in Salt Lake City will maintain a limited in-office presence, with visitors accepted by appointment only, and a majority of our staff will continue to work remotely through the end of 2020. We work to provide vital services to the refugees we serve, from staff home offices, living rooms and more. Refugee families need our support now more than ever—and you can help!
When we first heard of COVID-19 cases appearing in the U.S., the IRC in Salt Lake City began planning to develop a comprehensive mitigation response. Our top priority remains the health and safety of the people we serve, as well as our staff and dedicated volunteers. We are also committed to maintaining our services for refugee families and other immigrant community members who need our help during this critical time.
Throughout this difficult time, we have been inspired by the refugees we serve, encouraged by the many impressive ways they are contributing to the economic stability of Utah, and keeping our communities safe and healthy. Refugees and immigrants are essential workers, healthcare providers, food-producers, volunteers, mask-makers, and so much more.
Though refugees continue to inspire by overcoming immense challenges, the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic have disproportionately affected refugee families in our community. Many refugee families have felt particularly isolated, removed from their communities of support. So many who worked hard to achieve self-sufficiency and strive toward positive integration now face unprecedented challenges.
Here’s how you can help:
With generous community support, the IRC in Salt Lake City was able to provide immediate emergency response to refugee families. However, as the effects of the pandemic still reverberate in our community, our ongoing response in support of refugees endures. Help us ensure refugee families access critical health services like immunizations, find childcare so parents can maintain jobs, connect with financial coaching, access nutritious food and so much more. We rely on generous supporters, like YOU, to effectively respond and meet the needs of refugees in our community. Donate now>
Contribute Gift Cards.
To ensure refugee families can access essential supplies, mail us gift cards to stores like Walmart, Target and Smith's in amounts between $20-$50. Gift cards like these help families purchase vital supplies and empower them to make these important choices for themselves. Learn more by emailing us at DonateSLC [at] rescue.org ().
Share reliable information.
Misinformation can create fear and hostility that hurts people and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy. We have compiled a number of multilingual, informational resources. Share today>
For more information, visit coronavirus.utah.gov or call the Utah Coronavirus Hotline at 1-800-456-7707. You can continue to receive our updates with new resources by:
Together, we have:
Ensured access to essential services
Every community in Utah has felt the shock, between the March earthquake and the impact of this global pandemic, severe gaps have opened up between refugees and basic needs. Thanks to our combined efforts with valued community partners and supporters, the IRC in Salt Lake City distributed hundreds of emergency kits filled with food staples, important cleaning supplies and hygiene basics for families.
Community support did not stop there, though. The IRC in Salt Lake City received over 5,100 donated face masks to protect local refugees and to ensure they can access public places safely. Zubaidah, a former refugee resettled by the IRC, handcrafted a number of face masks for newly arrived refugees.
Helped families impacted by interruptions to employment and unexpected leaves of absence
Many refugees work in industries that were hardest hit by COVID-19, including hospitality, food service, airports/airlines and more. This means many families—who were on the path to self-sufficiency before the COVID-19 pandemic—need extra support with rent, utilities and other basic needs. Since March 2020, we have distributed over $50,000 in direct emergency rental and housing assistance. To increase sustainable solutions, IRC staff have helped 45 households directly affected by the impact to access benefits and make plans to overcome obstacles. This includes greater access to employment readiness services offered through online classes and videos provided in a number of languages to empower refugees and other immigrants in their job searches.
Secured options for children to continue their education
Many refugee families face the same challenges other Utahns face: their kids need to progress in their education from home. Our education team quickly took action, delivering over 100 laptops, some generously donated, and reaching out to families to ensure they have a reliable internet connection. In collaboration with multiple school districts, the team continues to help families access the school work, better understand new online platforms, and connect parents and students with resources specific to their needs.
From online youth tutoring to innovative learning hub supports, IRC staff and volunteers support students in their academic pursuits, no matter the challenges.
Worked with entrepreneurs to protect the future success of their small businesses
Despite the unique barriers presented by the pandemic, New Roots has established a new farmer’s market at the IRC in Salt Lake City office. Additionally, the Sunnyvale Farmers Market location is run collaboratively by refugee farmers participating in the program. New Roots farmers are producing record-setting this year sales by establishing relationships with customers directly.
Together, we have worked with 13 Spice Kitchen Incubator businesses to apply for over $160,000 in loans and grants while they experience financial loss, recognizing that behind every small business is a home. In addition, Spice Kitchen staff worked with entrepreneurs to create Community Food Boxes in an effort to increase market opportunities for small businesses and maintain the community’s access to diverse foods. Though entrepreneurs face unique challenges, they are still seeking to help others. Through a collaborative community project, the Nourish to Flourish Initiative, Spice Kitchen entrepreneurs are preparing nutritious meals for food-insecure community members across Salt Lake County. Additionally, Chef Abudu from Kafe Mamai guided a local effort to raise money for children in Yemen, a population facing numerous crises on top of the global pandemic.
Supported refugees and immigrants at a higher risk for COVID-19
An ongoing priority for the IRC in Salt Lake City is to ensure people at higher risk for the illness have the information and resources they need to stay safe and healthy. Our team worked tirelessly to provide individualized outreach to 500 refugee families—over 2,000 individuals—served by the IRC in Salt Lake City. Between outreach and various resources, we have worked to keep refugee communities up to date with safety guidelines and COVID-19 information.
Thanks to immunization clinics provided by the IRC health team, refugees will be safe from other diseases which could weaken their immune systems. Additionally, in partnership with the Utah Department of Health, Community Health Workers—some of them current IRC staff—have supported multiple initiatives, including interpretation support at the University of Utah Wellness Bus which is currently testing for the COVID-19 virus.
We appreciate all you do year-round to support newcomers in our community. A sincere thank you to our volunteers as well who have worked through extraordinary circumstances to help us pivot and bolster our programs in a remote and virtual world. Together, we have ensured our newest neighbors feel supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work continues. The IRC in Salt Lake City will be here for refugees and immigrants no matter what. Thanks for being right here with us.
Impacts on our work in Salt Lake City:
- Staff from across programming in Salt Lake City reached out to hundreds of refugee families—over 2,000 individuals—in April 2020 to check on their health and safety, gain a better understanding of the unique challenges each family faces, and work on an individualized response plan for high-risk individuals. We continue to respond to evolving needs, checking in with families who raise concerns.
- Volunteer activities re-opened in May 2020, focused on remote and virtual efforts with very few in-person opportunities. From Online Youth Tutoring to our IRC Tech Squad, community members can support our efforts in a variety of ways. Group volunteer opportunities are also available for groups with 10 or fewer people. Learn more>
- In March 2020, the IRC in Salt Lake City temporarily closed its doors to focus on the safety and health of the refugees we serve, our community of supporters, and our staff. Starting in August 2020, our office is available by appointment only, and a majority of our staff continue their work remotely. We are committed to doing our part to prevent further community spread of the coronavirus. The IRC in Salt Lake City will adjust operations as public health guidance evolves; however, we do not plan to fully reopen until January 2021.
- We now offer numerous resources and classes online, increasing the educational opportunities for refugees and immigrants in our community. The classes focus on an array of skills, including computer literacy, vocational ESL, job readiness and more. To continue providing refugees with the resources they need to rebuild their lives, classes will be held online for the foreseeable future. These include digital inclusion classes, economic wellbeing classes and more.
- Learn about the latest impacts on our work and our efforts to mitigate these challenges by following the IRC in Salt Lake City on Facebook>
Help prevent community spread of COVID-19 by:
We compiled a number of multilingual, information resources to ensure accurate information is shared about COVID-19. Visit our resource page>
A few simple ways you can help prevent community spread of COVID-19:
- Wash your hands properly. Frequently clean your hands by using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. You can get the virus by touching a variety of common surfaces such as doorknobs. So, avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes unless your hands are thoroughly cleaned.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes. When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard the tissue immediately and wash your hands.
- Practice physical distancing. Avoid close contact (maintain at least six feet/two-meters distance) with everyone in public, especially anyone who has a fever or a cough.
- Wear cloth face coverings in public. The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth face-covering in public settings where physical distancing is difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.). Continue to practice physical distancing while wearing face coverings. Some counties are now requiring face masks in public settings. Check local health department guidelines for updates on requirements and recommendations.
- Stay home, especially if you feel sick. If you are sick with fever or cough, stay home. Follow guidance and "Stay Home" orders given by your local, state and federal health officials.
For more information, visit coronavirus.utah.gov or call the Utah Coronavirus Hotline at 1-800-456-7707.