Getting refugee children ready for school

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The service week commemorating Sept. 11 is kicking off early this year with a school supplies drive for refugee children living in Utah.

UVUSA’s Independent Branch, which includes UV Mentors, the Multicultural and International student organizations and the Volunteer and Service Learning Center, determined that this year’s 9/11 Service week will be dedicated to working with refugee families living in the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys.

Refugees living in Utah are granted $135 every two weeks for six months to provide for their families. This is a set amount for everyone, for individuals and families of ten alike.

“It is not enough,” Elizabeth Jarema, UVUSA executive vice president, said. “They can not provide for their families on so little. These children do not have the resources to succeed in school when they don’t even have notebooks and pencils.”

After the initial six months of support, the state will no longer pay for the refugees’ expenses, they are left to seek their own employment and find their own means of survival.

“Many of these men and women do not speak English, they are from very different cultures, they do not yet know how to survive here,” Jarema said.

 The drive began last week and will continue through Friday, Sept. 13 when volunteers can come and put together school kits.

“Anyone who wants to help can come and work with us to put the packets together. We’ll be meeting in the Grande Ballroom in the Student Center,” Jarema said.

The refugees the UVU community will work with come from Burma, Cambodia, Nepal, Haiti, as well as several African countries.

In addition to gathering school supplies, the UVU Independent branch plans to continue its work with these displaced families.

“We’re also planning on helping them with maintaining their homes,” Jarema said. “Many of them come from countries that do not have cleaning supplies. Their homes are made from dirt or wood. I come from Fiji and we would clean our windows with newspaper. Things are very different here. They do not yet know what cleaning products to buy and what they can be used for. We plan to help with that.”

Donations of school and craft supplies are being collected in the offices of those in the Independent Branch, including in the Woodbury Business building, room 144, the Liberal Arts building, room 207 and in the Sorensen Student Center, room 105.