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CCS seeks volunteers to help Afghan, other refugees coming to Ogden

By Tim Vandenack - | Jan 4, 2022

Image supplied, Catholic Community Services

This screengrab from a Catholic Community Services video on its Afghan refugee program shows Mahmood Amiri, right, with his family. CCS will be seeking homes in the Ogden area for Afghan refugees, among others, and is holding a virtual gathering on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, as part of efforts to find volunteers to help with the effort. Amiri came to the United States in 2019 and lives in Salt Lake City.

OGDEN — Outreach is expanding to find volunteers willing to help with the planned relocation of refugees from Afghanistan and other global hot spots to the Ogden area, perhaps by the end of February.

As many as 150 refugees are to come to the area — Afghans and others — and locals are needed to help the newcomers with the transition to life here. Catholic Community Services of Utah is spearheading the effort in conjunction with the Utah Department of Workforce Services’ Refugee Services Office and the U.S. State Department.

“It’s critical,” said Asha Parekh, the Refugee Services Office director. Without a welcoming committee to help support the new arrivals, she said, it can be difficult for them to adjust to life here.

Jennifer Gnagey, a CCS consultant aiding with the Weber County relocation effort, said organizers have already lined up around 20 to 30 volunteers, but more are needed. To that end, CCS is hosting a virtual orientation session for would-be volunteers on Thursday at 6 p.m. Go to bit.ly/3mT9bUg for more information.

“We can accommodate more and we’d like to have as many people as are interested,” Gnagey said.

According to Parekh, as many as 50 refugees from Afghanistan and other nations are to relocate in Ogden. Aden Batar, migration and refugee services director with Catholic Community Services of Utah, said the number coming to the Ogden area could range from 100 to 150.

The Afghans are part of a contingent of thousands of evacuees who left Afghanistan and came to the United States after the U.S. military departure from the south-central Asian nation late last year. As of the end of December, 573 Afghans had already relocated in the Salt Lake City area, among the 885 in all that are expected to come to Utah, up from the earlier figure of 765, according to Parekh.

Ogden is home to several Congolese families that relocated here in 2016 with CCS help, and more from the African nation and other countries are expected to be in the new wave coming to the area.

While most of the Afghan refugees are to be relocated in the Salt Lake City area, around 20 are to go to the Logan area, aside from the group to come to Ogden, Parekh said. The Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection will help with the Logan efforts.

Parekh and Batar weren’t crystal clear on timing of the arrival of the refugees in Ogden. Pinpointing that depends on securing enough volunteers to aid the new families and finding housing where they can live. But there’s a measure of pressure from the feds — the Afghan refugees who haven’t yet been resettled are living in U.S. military bases and U.S. officials hope to have them out and in homes by the end of February.

The refugees being relocated around the United States have been vetted by federal officials. Likewise, volunteers who help them will be subject to background checks.

CCS typically assigns four or five volunteers to a family to help them learn the ropes of life here. Volunteers are also need to help tutor school-aged kids and to serve as mentors to children. Such assignments require a commitment of up to a year, though there are more immediate, short-erm volunteer needs as well.

More information on CCS efforts to relocate Afghans to Utah can be obtained at ccsutah.org/afghanistan-response.


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