On February 13, 2015, LDS Charities and AMAR U.S. co-sponsored a conference titled “From Conflict Zones to Our Communities: Best Practices for Refugee Assistance and Resettlement.”
LDS Charities and AMAR U.S. are deeply involved in supporting the 50 million refugees worldwide. This conference was the first in a series of conferences that are meant to inspire dialogue within communities who support refugees.
Gerald Brown, director of Refugee Services in the Department of Workforce Services, began the conference by introducing the scope of refugee support that is needed. He described his work with local refugees who have resettled in Utah, stating that the conference was “meant to inspire members of the welcoming community to become more involved in supporting refugees.”
Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne
Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, president of AMAR U.S., described several of her personal experiences in the Middle East. Her harrowing accounts from the front lines with Dr. Rowsch Shaways illustrated the fragility of the region, and her story of a refugee family that had been driven from their rural farm and walked 100 miles to escape ISIL brought the necessity of refugee support into sharp focus.
Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities, focused her remarks on the effects of the refugee crisis on children, as well as funding predicaments many aid agencies are facing. She said, “Part of the reason we are having this refugee conference today is to explore new thinking. What could creatively be done to access resources that hasn’t been done in the past?”
Larry Bartlett, director of the Refugee Admissions Office for the U.S. State Department, shared some insights into the challenges and successes of the U.S. resettlement program, as well as the direction it is moving in the future.
Dr. Ali Muthanna
Dr. Ali Muthanna, regional manager of AMAR Iraq, spoke next. He became familiar with AMAR while a refugee in an AMAR refugee camp, and he has used his medical training to work as a camp doctor and help establish clinics throughout the region.
Dr. Ali described the experience of individuals in refugee camps. He emphasized how powerless they are to control even the basic needs in their lives.
Panel: Sharing Best Practices and Innovative Interventions in the Field
The first panel of the day focused on sharing best practices and innovative interventions in the field. The panel included Dr. Sarah Al-Obaydi and Dr. Ali Muthanna of AMAR, Cara Yar Khan of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Sanna Johnson of International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Lindsay Stepp of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Guyanu Dulal, a refugee from Bhutan, shared his personal experience of being resettled in Salt Lake City after living for 18 years in a refugee camp in Nepal.
He answered several questions: What do refugees need? What does the host community need to know? And what services are required for the refugees to thrive?
He said, “We need a friend, a mentor who can explain about the situations and the system that works in these Western countries.”
Panel: Services and Needs in the Resettlement Process
Following Dulal’s remarks, a panel of local specialists addressed questions about services and needs in the resettlement process. The panel included Gerald Brown of Utah’s Refugee Services Office, Atem Aleu of the Bhutanese Community of Utah, Joe Nahas of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Julianna Potter of Catholic Community Services, Patrick Poulin of IRC, and Lina Smith of the Asian Association.
Panel: Employment Success in the Local Community
The third panel of the day addressed employment success in the local community. It included Lee Hardy and Chris Petrick of Deseret Industries, Stephanie Johnston of Marriott Summit Watch, and Ze Min Xiao of Salt Lake County office.
Sharon Eubank’s concluding remarks
At the conclusion of the conference, Sharon Eubank reviewed some of the key lessons she had learned throughout the day that had answered the question, “How can I help?”
For more coverage of the conference, refer to the Deseret News: LDS Charities, AMAR U.S. host conference about challenges facing refugees.