On April 16th, more than 150 local humanitarians showed support for refugees in our community by attending the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City’s annual spring fundraiser, Journey to the Wasatch. This annual spring party celebrates the journey hundreds of our refugee neighbors undergo each year to make their home in Utah.
This year also marks a special anniversary for the IRC in Salt Lake City: 25 years of serving refugees and new Americans since opening our doors in 1994. Party-goers learned about the IRC in Salt Lake City throughout the years and showed their continued support of refugees by writing postcards to their local representatives in favor of refugee resettlement, expressing welcome for refugees on social media, signing up to take action and rallying during the symbolic live auction—pledging more than $6,500 in ten minutes. In total, we raised $22,000 to support continued programming and services for the most vulnerable arriving to our community.
During the program, Natalie El-Deiry, acting executive director of the IRC in Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson spoke to the audience, expressing the importance of continued support for refugee resettlement in Salt Lake County.
Natalie emphasized the impact of the IRC’s work in our community: “We are helping new Americans to create stable families and prosper as they integrate into life in the Salt Lake community. For reasons of war and persecution we have seen the most horrendous crises through the years tear families apart and force them to flee to find sanctuary in the US. The IRC is a lifeline to those seeking refuge. Our work not only allows us to find safety and to build new lives, but for people to find a new home.”
Mayor Wilson emphasized her continued support to the work of refugee resettlement in Salt Lake County. “The work [the IRC is] doing day to day in the community is so incredibly useful. ...I maintain a commitment to help you along the way, to see what more we can do.”
Following their remarks, attendees watched a short video showcasing the history and impact of the IRC in Salt Lake City. Current and former staff members, as well as former refugees resettled by the IRC in Salt Lake City, spoke about their experiences with the organization and their hopes for refugee resettlement in the future.
Elissa McConkie, former resettlement operations officer with the IRC in Salt Lake City from 1999 to 2009, spoke of the improvements she has seen in programming over the years. “I can tell that the programs continue to improve, and that refugees are better off now. That gives me hope that things are just going to continue to be better for refugees in the United States.”
Former refugees, resettled through the years, expressed gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities they have received. Aida Zimmerman, who was resettled in 1997 and worked with the IRC in Salt Lake City as a job developer from 1998 to 2001, commented that “the IRC just feels like a family. They were the first ones to welcome us to a new country; they were our go-to for anything we needed.”
Enes Huskic, who was resettled in 1996 and now owns Toasters, said that coming to Utah and being resettled by the IRC “felt like...having a second chance at life.”
Kaltum Mohamed, resettled in 2013 and now owns Mother of All Catering after receiving support from our Spice Kitchen Incubator program, expressed her gratitude, “Now I am very, very, very happy. I need to say thank you to everybody, everybody helped me in Utah.”
We would like to thank to Michelle Watkins of Curate Visual and April Martin for volunteering their time and expertise to produce the short film.
We are grateful to all attendees for continuing to be part of our rich history of welcome over the past 25 years and joining us to stand with refugees at Journey to the Wasatch.
A special thanks to our event sponsors, including:
Susan Poulin of Sotheby's Summit Realty
Warren & Jennie Lloyd of Lloyd Architects
Additionally, we would like to thank our friends and in-kind sponsors:
Finally, a special thanks to our team at Spice Kitchen Incubator, a program of the IRC in Salt Lake City, for coordinating the catering and providing new American entrepreneurs and chefs with opportunities to improve their skills and become successful in our community.
Food catered at Journey to the Wasatch was prepared by:
Support our events in the future by becoming an in-kind or monetary sponsor. Learn more by emailing us at SaltLakeCity [at] rescue.org.