Each year, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City organizes an annual holiday gift drive, Light One Candle, to collect much-needed supplies and other wish list items for newly arrived refugee families. Light One Candle provides an opportunity for community members and groups to sponsor a family and donate their wish list items. This year, donors and groups, like Rowland Hall, stepped in to gather items from over 100 newly arrived refugee families’ wish lists.  

Rowland Hall has been participating in Light One Candle for years – at least ten, thinks Ryan Hoglund, Director of Ethical Education. “It’s really meaningful for us at a time of year that we really want kids to understand that with privilege comes responsibility,” Ryan shares. “This is a great way to build your own community by helping folks get off on as good a foot as possible.” All middle school students are involved in the holiday drive, but occasionally the support branches our farther. Ryan notes how, this year, the junior class got involved in supporting the drive on their own initiative. “It’s fun to see that students who had done it in middle school, by the time they are juniors it’s like ‘Hey it’s time for Light One Candle, that’s something that was important for us at that time, let’s continue our own initiative.’” 

A young boy play with the Legos he received during Light One Candle with the help of his caseworker
During Light One Candle, families with kids often receive toys and educational materials, in addition to other household items.
Photo: James Roh

Martha Miller teaches the seventh grade World Studies class at Rowland Hall where students learn about refugees and migration. For her, participating in Light One Candle is one of the many ways she teaches her students holistically about other cultures. “I think they understand that coming to a new country, there are so many nuances to learn and so many things about a culture that you don’t understand,” Margot explains. “For our students, the material piece is tied into the wider idea of ‘What do I need to live in this culture?’”  

Refugee families leave behind most of their possessions when they are forced to flee from their homes. The items on a family’s wish list vary from kitchen tools like pots, pans, and rice cookers, to technology like headphones and TVs. Light One Candle offers families the opportunity to fulfill specific needs often out of reach due to limited budgets or more pressing priorities. Individuals also receive items beyond basic needs, such as paintbrushes or knitting materials – things that they may have practiced as a hobby before arriving to the U.S. 

The IRC in Salt Lake City is gearing up for 2022 and all that the new year will bring. Learn how you can lend a helping hand to our newest neighbors by visiting Rescue.org/SupportSLC »