Welcoming Afghan Refugees to Utah

Utah’s refugee resettlement policies and services are unparalleled across the nation. The Utah Afghan Community Fund (UACF) contributed to Utah’s legacy of hospitality as a community driven emergency response to support incoming Afghan refugees. 

On October 19th of 2021, Governor Spencer Cox announced UACF as a private-public initiative to fill critical gaps in services for 765 humanitarian parolees moving into Utah communities.

“I believe that in Utah, we are people with heart. The people who are coming here are people who have lost everything — who have left everything behind. They desperately need people with heart,” Governor Cox said. 

Inspired to help, thousands of donations were made to the fund from well established philanthropists to first time donors. Thanks to Utah's generous spirit, UACF surpassed its initial fundraising goal by over $200,000. The additional funding was crucial in guiding the 915 refugees, nearly 20% more than originally anticipated, through the legal, medical, and cultural transition of immigration.

The fund supported a partnership between two of Utah’s primary resettlement agencies, International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services, to provide food, health, and housing services for the refugees. Utah Muslim Civic League provided the cultural bridge necessary to provide holistic and comprehensive services to the refugees. Fund partners collaborated to ensure that they were not duplicating each other’s efforts and instead complimented each other's services to maximize their impact.

As these refugees acclimate to their new home, the fund has adapted to provide specialized support such as technology to enable students to engage in online learning, legal services to process resettlement related paperwork, and training for culturally sensitive sources of revenue for women who want to contribute to their family income.

UACF tested a new funding model where the three resettlement entities UACF granted to were represented on its steering committee. By giving the recipient entities of UACF the authority to direct funding, the committee had access to subject matter experts every step of the way. This lead to unparalleled resource coordination and synergistic decision making, proving to be successful in addressing pressing needs in our community.

UACF Committee Chair Naja Pham Lockwood reflected on her own experience as a refugee when she praised Utah’s approach towards Afghanistan refugee support. “We want to help each other. We care about our neighbors and we want to uplift those in need,” she said.

The Utah Afghan Community Fund is a historic achievement that demonstrates Utah’s acceptance of refugees in need of a home.


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