SOUTH SALT LAKE — Among so many other pressing needs, few think of donating cleaning supplies to refugees.
Instead of settling on giving standard household cleaners, the Young Living Foundation and the nonprofit WHOLives donated dozens of boxes of chemical-free cleaning supplies to the Utah Refugee Connection's Share House in South Salt Lake on Monday.
"All of our products are chemical-free, they're all natural. For us, it just made sense if this is the care kit," said Greg Larsen, executive director of Young Living Foundation, a Utah-based company.
The cleaning supplies filled 500 "clean bags" for refugee families living along the Wasatch Front. Each bag has about $100 worth of household cleaning supplies, from laundry soap to towels to sponges, Larsen said.
"Every refugee who comes to Utah is given that opportunity to start their home with a clean bag with cleaning supplies," he said.
Nearly 60,000 refugees currently live in Utah, said Amy Dott Harmer, executive director with the Utah Refugee Connection. But much of the help they receive doesn't cover expensive supplies like diapers or hygiene items.
"The refugee population here is thriving and doing well, but there are lots of things that can be done to make them feel more welcome," she said. "If we can help defer some of those costs, then they can use their money to pay rent or to buy groceries."
The Share House doesn't give out supplies aimlessly, she added. Instead, refugees receive the items when they attend English or computer skills classes.
"We’re here to help them as they’re making that transition to become independent," Harmer said.
Biza Kwizera relocated in the United States in 2010 with her daughter who has autism. She volunteers at the Utah Refugee Connection by filling supply orders from refugee requests.
"In my country, nobody can help me. But here, they help me with everything I want for (my daughter)," she said. "All the time I say, ‘God bless America,’ because they are helping me a lot."
There was a huge drop in the number of resettled refugees during the 2017 fiscal year, Harmer said. Only 400 refugees were moved to Utah this year, compared to about 1,200 in previous years.
The drop in numbers is largely due to the political upheaval, she explained.
"We have so many opportunities here, and there's so much good that can be done. It's really heartbreaking to see not as many (refugees) are able to come," Harmer said.
Sabrina Mohamed came to Utah when she was 11. She volunteers at the Utah Refugee Connection because she remembers how it felt moving to a foreign place and learning a different language.
"We help them because we know what we went through when we first came," she said. "We know how it felt and how it is. Giving back to the community is what we love."
The Young Living Foundation and WHOLives is also holding a benefit concert in Salt Lake City on Oct. 28 to raise funds for an educational scholarship for local refugees and build sustainable water projects in impoverished countries.