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Representative Ferry meets refugees at Cultural Orientation

Utah State Capitol building framed with tree branches covered in leaves turned orange and yellow in autumn weather.

The IRC in Salt Lake City recently held a Cultural Orientation for newly arrived refugee families at the Utah State Capitol, where attendees heard from Representative Joel Ferry.

Photo: James Roh

Within a few weeks after arriving to the U.S., the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City invites refugee families to attend Cultural Orientation (CO), a multi-day introduction to the services offered by the IRC, and overview of the U.S. laws, and new cultural norms. One of many educational services offered to refugee families and individuals, CO occurs monthly to help acclimate our newest neighbors, covering topics ranging from employment and financial literacy basics to immigration services, U.S. laws, and safety in the U.S. Recently, the IRC in Salt Lake City was joined by a special guest, Representative Joel Ferry, who presented during a CO held at the Utah State Capitol building. Representative Ferry spoke about life in Utah and key aspects to the United States government to a room of more than 60 refugee attendees.  

“The thing I love about Utah and the United States is you can be happy and successful if you work hard, treat others fairly, and are honest in how you live your life,” said Representative Ferry. “We love our neighbors and welcome you here. We want you to be a part of our community.” During his time presenting during CO at the State Capitol, Representative Ferry had the chance to meet the newly arrived refugee families, learning more about the country they grew up in and a few basic words in their language.  

During the Cultural Orientation session, the participants engaged in the conversation and found common ground between cultures, especially when Representative Ferry spoke to his experience with farming. As refugee resettlement increases and families evacuated from Afghanistan continue to arrive to Utah, the IRC in Salt Lake City works to provide support for our newest neighbors as they integrate into their new community. The IRC’s education team is responsible for coordinating Cultural Orientation sessions. 

Utah State Representative Joel Ferry is presenting in a room in front of seated participants.

Representative Ferry spoke to recently arrived refugees about life in Utah and the U.S.

Photo: James Roh

Krysti Nellermoe, education program supervisor, oversees Cultural Orientation and works to help ease the transition for a new American family. She believes that Cultural Orientation helps refugee families and individuals to “Successfully navigate available services, their local community, and the broader society of the United States to promote cross-cultural understanding while encouraging the client’s positive psychological adjustment.” The education program continues to enhance CO for newly arrived families recently introducing a digital app as part of the CO process. Settle In is translated into multiple languages and gives refugee families access to CO topics after the in-person sessions are complete. By introducing Settle In during CO, refugee families are expanding their digital literacy skills while maintaining access to vital information that supports long-term learning.  

Newly arrived refugees are undergoing major transitions in their lives, adjusting to a multitude of barriers. Lok Darjee, the cultural orientation coordinator, said, “One of the biggest challenges many refugees face is the idea of law itself.” The majority of people who come into the United States under refugee status come from countries with disrupted law and order. While Lok leads participants in orientation, he also understands the great opportunities new Americans bring to the community. Culture, music, food, talent, ideas, and so much more. "Culture embodies the unique and profound narrative of different groups of people. The greatest strength we have as humans is that we are malleable. Many refugees will continuously learn more about the culture around us,” said Lok. 

Cultural Orientation helps newly arrived families and individuals understand what to expect as they work to settle into the next chapter of their lives. The IRC in Salt Lake City is grateful to Representative Ferry for his time and efforts to welcome our newest neighbors to Utah, one example of many in the community who offer a warm welcome to refugee families arriving to Utah. With broad community support, Utah remains a supportive and welcoming home for new Americans.  

You can help us continue successful Cultural Orientation by becoming a Cultural Orientation Childcare Volunteer. Learn more »