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Volunteers, company come together for mural at Utah Refugee Goats farm

By Harrison Epstein - | Sep 25, 2022
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Volunteers clean up after completion of a mural at the Utah Refugee Goats farm in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
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The mural at the Utah Refugee Goats farm in Salt Lake City is shown on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
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Community volunteers and refugee families pose for a photo in front of the mural at the Utah Refugee Goats farm in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

Sometimes it just takes a splash of color to brighten everyone’s day — at least, that’s the hope. Dozens of volunteers from Utah and Salt Lake counties descended on the Utah Refugee Goats farm in Salt Lake City on Saturday to paint a barn-side mural and build community.

“Today was a beautiful day. Kids came out, painted this beautiful (mural) — I admit, it added color to the farm and it brought the mainstream and the refugee people together,” said Abdikadir Hussein, a community board member of Utah Refugee Goats. “It makes it like home.”

That sentiment, that the farm felt a little bit more like home, was echoed to Hussein by several of the refugee children on hand for the event.

A feeling of home was the goal of the day, according to Lew Miller, another member of the board.

As the children and volunteers did their part, painting small goats and the occasional message of positivity, animals continued to wander by in neighboring pens.

The farm has everything from goats and chickens to rabbits and ducks, Hussein said.

Animals are raised at the farm to be available for refugee families in the area. Utah Refugee Goats also provides scholarships to refugee students and training on running a business.

The mural project was organized by Spry, part of Xlear Inc. based out of American Fork.

“It’s great to be in and with the community members, especially in this circumstance, welcoming refugees, making them feel welcome and being with them” said Joel Melton, director of marketing at Xlear. “It was a fun day but it was a good opportunity for us to sponsor some good-natured events that bring smiles.”

When Saturday’s work came to a close, all in attendance were satisfied with the brightness, vibrance and sense of a job well done. That doesn’t mean, though, that the mural was completed. According to Miller, a professional painting of Abdalla Wazir, a 72-year-old volunteer-turned-employee of the farm, will be added on at a later time.

Miller called Wazir, “the heart and soul of the farm,” and praised his constant efforts helping other members of Utah’s refugee community.

The mural in Utah will not be the only one of its kind. Across the world, in Berlin, a mirrored mural will be completed in a Ukrainian refugee camp.

The pairing came after a volunteer with the goat farm, Cindi Merrell, connected the group with those honoring the spirit and memory of Col. Gail Halvorsen.

Halvorsen, known as the “Candy Bomber,” lived most of his life in Utah County and was known around the world for delivering sweets to German children during World War II. He passed away in Provo in February at the age of 101 and has since been honored in the area and around the globe.

“Tying in with the celebration of Gail Halvorsen, Col. Halvorsen, has been a great opportunity for us because everyone knows him and we want them to have the same opportunities,” Melton said.

Hussein acknowledged the support of the International Rescue Committee and Kennecott, formerly Rio Tinto, along with a host of other business, nonprofit groups and universities for their work with the goat farm.

Over the next several months, Utah Refugee Goats will continue to offer volunteer opportunities, including fence building and other manual labor projects. The group is also building additional shelters to raise more goats, in an effort to make the farm more self-sustaining for the refugee community.

“I’d encourage people to connect with us,” Miller said.

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