by Chelsea Nelson

Interactive Communications Director

A few days ago, I had the honor to sit down and talk with Aden Batar, the Director of Immigration & Refugee Resettlement for Catholic Community Services (CCS). Batar has an amazing story.  A Somali refugee himself, Batar has first hand experience with fleeing a country due to civil war and then going through the refugee resettlement process in Utah.

Batar grew up in Somalia and then graduated with his law degree from Somali National University. During that time, he also married and started a family. However, in 1990, shortly after Batar graduated, civil war broke out. Due to the violence, Batar hid his family for two years until his older son died as a result of the war in 1992. Following that devastating loss, the very next day Batar took his family and fled Somalia.

Batar had a brother-in-law that had been a student in Utah since 1988, who then sponsored Batar and his family for political asylum.  Shortly after, Batar and his family came to Utah to resettle as refugees. Batar and his family spent 2 years in Logan where he studied at Utah Sate University. At this same time, many Somali refugees were living in camps in Kenya.  In 1996 the camps became so overcrowded and health conditions became so poor, that hundreds of thousands of these refugees were resettled to the United States. Utah resettled a large number of refugees and Batar moved to Salt Lake to take a job with Catholic Community Services to help with resettlement.

Batar has dedicated himself to Catholic Community Services ever since. In 2001 he became the director of the refugee program and is currently still working hard to resettle refugees in Salt Lake City. Batar also does many things for the refugee community outside of Catholic Community Services.  Batar founded Somali Community Services and works to help the Islamic Society of Salt Lake City. His family also participates in volunteer service with the refugee community whenever they can. Because of his dedication to the resettlement of Somali refugees and the refugee community in general, Batar has been asked to attend the UNHCR annual meeting on refugee resettlement in Geneva, Switzerland, as the Somali US Delegate–where he will be representing all Somali refugees. This is a huge honor, and we congratulate him.

United Way of Salt Lake partners with Catholic Community Services to help reach our Immigrant and Refugee Immigration goals. Using the Collective Impact model, CCS and other refugee partners are now working together, rather than in competition with each other. Batar says “Collective Impact and partnering with United Way of Salt Lake is very exciting. It allows everyone who is supporting the refugee community to come together, rather than compete. Because of this, services can compliment one another. This helps so much because those who need help get a well-rounded variety of services and everyone is working together.”

There are many great partners working together in Utah to help the refugee community.  However, volunteers who get involved on a personal level are always needed. Batar encourages everyone to reach out and become friends with those who are trying to make Utah home. “No matter how many agencies there are–there is only so much each one can do. The refugee community needs more. They need someone to call a friend. They need people to welcome them. Helping on a personal level is so meaningful and we can’t allow refugees to be isolated. They need to be a part of the community. Refugees don’t have a choice when they leave their home country. As a community, we do have a choice. We must choose to help refugees.”

Photo thanks to

Thank you, Batar for LIVING UNITED and helping so many people in our communities and neighborhoods!  Good luck in Geneva!

For volunteer opportunities in the refugee community, dial 2-1-1 for more information!