ST. GEORGE — The new ambassador representing refugees across Utah is a British-American musician who’s sang alongside the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, danced as a contestant on “America’s Got Talent” and performed a popular song in Southern Utah for a YouTube Video that’s amassed over 800,000 views.
Alex Boyé was announced to be Utah’s refugee ambassador June 23 in Salt Lake City. An official event with Gov. Gary Herbert to recognize Boyé as refugee ambassador will take place later this month.
In a tweet, Boyé said “there is a lot of things I want to do to help raise awareness to our Utah refugees and highlight the amazing things they do.”
It won’t be a full-time position, but as ambassador Boyé will speak at public events about refugees on Herbert’s behalf and engage with refugee communities, said Bethany Hyatt, public information officer for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, which helps refugees find jobs and integrate into society in Utah through the Utah Refugee Services Office.
“The role of the ambassador is to raise awareness among the mainstream community of the challenges faced by the refugees living in Utah now,” Hyatt said. “We are currently putting together a vision of what makes sense with his schedule and what his interests are to align those with the needs we have.”
Some of the biggest challenges refugees face when coming to America include understanding the language, finding employment to sustain their families and coordinating transportation. As refugee ambassador, Boyé will hopefully teach Utahns how to better help their refugee neighbors as they overcome these challenges, Hyatt said.
Boyé’s background, including being born to Nigerian parents in London and turning his heritage into a career with music, makes him the perfect person to represent refugees in Utah.
“Boyé has a lot of passion, and at the World Refugee Day (June 23), he was able to meet some refugees for the first time and hear their stories,” Hyatt said. “He’s excited to serve and we’re excited to have him as the ambassador.”
At the World Refugee Day, several immigrants, like Ubah Abdi, took the oath to become U.S. citizens. Abdi came to America more than six years ago as a refugee from Somalia.
It’s estimated there are about 65,000 refugees and children of refugees in Utah, Hyatt said. Before President Donald Trump last year lowered the cap on the number of refugees who could come to the U.S. to 45,000, DWS resettled nearly 1,200 refugees in Utah each year. That number has since gone down, but there continues to be refugees who come to the Beehive State, Hyatt said.
“Refugees didn’t choose to leave their homes; they were forced to leave. I think that’s one of the main misconceptions people have. … So refugees are just eager to work hard and raise their children in a safe environment.”
Those wanting to help refugees can also donate money to the Refugee Services Fund through DWS. They can also donate goods to organizations like Deseret Industries, Utah Refugee Connection and the Refugee and Immigrant Center-Asian Association of Utah.
“Utah is a welcoming place and we look forward to continuing to engage with Utahns in finding ways to help them connect with refugees and make that integration a successful, positive experience for everyone,” Hyatt said.
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