SALT LAKE CITY – Gov. Gary Herbert and the first lady Jeanette got a look at the new Refugee Education and Training Center Tuesday. The center opened several months ago after not being housed in a central facility for many years.
Refugees and directors of the refugee program say they're delighted to finally have a center they can call their own. They went without an actual facility for many years, and thanks to the Salt Lake Community College, they finally have a place to call home.
“They come from all over the world looking for opportunity, and they find it here, in Utah,” Herbert said.
The governor said he’s impressed with the programs the center is offering to help refugees better assimilate into Utah.
“They come with a very strong work ethic,” Herbert said. “They are not looking for a guarantee, only looking for an opportunity. They need to understand English and get some skills and training, but they’re anxious to do that.”
Refugees got the chance to meet with the governor and tell him how the program has changed their lives.
“It’s like a home for other people,” said Zakeya Ali, a refugee from Sudan. “They don’t know any other place. When they call and say ‘is this the refugee center?’ they will know they can get help here.”
“We can gather together and share each other’s feelings and we can learn each other’s tradition and culture and beliefs, so it’s a great place,” said Parmile Dulal, a refugee from Butan.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services reports refugees earn a lot less than average wage in Utah, and the refugee program helps them find jobs and thrive in the United States.
“We know English is critical,” said Asha Parekh, manager of Refugee Services for the Department of Workforce Services. “And that’s one of the things that we’re working really hard to figure out, is how to help refugees learn English quickly so that they can access more opportunities.”
The refugee program used to not be housed in a central facility, but thanks to the partnership between the refugee program and the Department of Workforce Services, they finally have a permanent location.
“So we really wanted to governor to come and see it, see what we’ve done and see the partnerships we’ve created and most importantly, hear from the refugees, the students that are here and our refugee population that are using the center,” said Deneece Huftalin, president of Salt Lake Community College.
The Refugee Education and Training Center continues to offer programs to refugees, including English language classes and assimilation courses that directors and the governor say will help refugees live the American dream.
For more information on how to donate to the center, visit refugee.utah.gov, or attend a volunteer orientation open house on Nov. 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Refugee Education and Training Center, 250 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City.