Story and slideshow by REEM IKRAM
Photos courtesy of Somali Community Self-Management Agency
Integral, passionate and admirable: these can be the three words used to describe Abdirizak Ibrahim. Ibrahim is the founder of the Somali Community Self-Management Agency. The agency is a refugee help center located on 1361 S. State St. Established in 2005, the small organization continues making constant efforts in helping with refugees and those who are in need of assistance and support.
The focus of the service organization is to provide a smooth transition to refugees who are creating a life within the Salt Lake Valley. It offers monthly food drives, labor opportunities and classes on how to be self-sufficient.
“It was very important to me, to have an environment where you could feel safe in,” Ibrahim said. He pointed to his wall of certificates displaying his involvement within his community. “I was a refugee too, when I came into the United States, and after I was able to get on my own two feet, I wanted to help others who used to be in my position as well,” he said, while giving a tour of his department.
SCSMA helps over 100 refugees each month. And as it starts to grow, Ibrahim has begun to reach out to other nonprofits, churches, and organizations to discuss whether they are willing to share their resources with the Somali refugees.
According to PBS, there are 60,000 refugees living in Utah, all of whom are learning how to manage a lifestyle here within the state. But following Trump’s executive order 13769, most have begun to fear their prospects.
Refugees are under major stress due to the current political climate. With no routes to follow, most are wary of what will happen after resettling within the U.S.
“With this new political climate, everything is extremely polarized but that’s been happening for a long time. And specifically, in my expertise, in respect to immigration, there is a lot more fear and a lot more uncertainty within the refugee communities,” said Daniel Black, who has immigration law experience doing consular processing, asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, U Visas, cancellation of removal, adjustment of status and other immigration cases. Black said he is very passionate about helping people and ensuring they receive the best representation possible, which is why he works at a firm that offers multiple resources for those in need, such as legal assistance and English classes.
“It’s very important to give people who are a part of your community a helping hand, that’s how you can ensure you have a functioning society,” Black said.
The United States is one of the few countries that is allowing refugees to come in for safety. But with more rules and rather strict regulations, it has become a hassle for refugees to feel secure and feel comfortable enough to live properly within the States. But with the increase of centers and agencies that help refugees, this hassle is slowly diminishing.
“It’s important to help and be involved because all refugees contribute to our society, whether it be by culture or perspective,” Christina Andino said. Andino is an intern for the Somali Community Self-Management Agency through the University of Utah Neighborhood Partners. “Refugees are just like us, they live life day by day. They’re a part of our communities. That’s why I enjoy spending my time with them,” she said.
Ibrahim, Black and Andino aren’t the only ones out there helping refugees cope with living within the state. There are approximately 21 other programming partners that also try to help out. Each partner offers various resources for the refugees. They successfully have managed to help an average number of 1,901 participants per month, all according to the Utah Refugee Services Office.
“Refugees are people who, rather than give up or give in, have chosen to take the higher and harder road and are grateful for the generosity of strangers who reached out with a willing and helping hand,” said Pamela Atkinson in a report to Gov. Gary J. Herbert..
Atkinson has been an advisor to the last three governors in Utah and has been a tireless advocate for the homeless and the refugees. She actively volunteers and personally engages within the community and is always trying to make a positive difference for those surrounding her.
Making a positive difference in the world is how we can rest assure that good things are still happening in this life.
To quote Emma Lazarus and the promise of the United States (as engraved on the Statue of Liberty);
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
For more than twenty decades, this has been the largely prolonged promise to those who come from near and far into the United States. And to have communities, agencies and organizations gather together to help those in need is a great tribute to that promise.
To be a part of keeping the United States’ promise alive while also helping with refugees, try to reach out to your local workforce department and resettlement agencies. They are always seeking out opportunities for aid either through volunteer work or generous donations.