Ghada sat attentively next to her reading tutor, practicing blending sounds and reading words aloud.

“I want to continue with my learning,” she said. “It will help me with my business, to talk to my customers.”

Ghada, who is professionally trained to do hair, makeup, and skin care, lives in Mesa with her 11-year-old son. She wants to get her GED and an Arizona license to use her skills and eventually open a salon.

A year ago she was living in Jordan, under very difficult circumstances.

“In my country, life is difficult,” she said. “Not easy.”

Ghada applied for asylum in the U.S. and settled in Arizona earlier this year. She found the Mesa Welcome Center and attends weekly tutoring sessions.

The Mesa Welcome Center for Immigrants, which opened its doors in February, is part of the Church’s Immigrant Services Initiative, which originated in Salt Lake City. It is held in the Mesa Inter-Stake Center near downtown and is currently the only one outside of Utah.

Bret Ellsworth, the Church’s Welfare Department’s manager of Immigrant Services, said the program began as an outreach to the nonmember immigrant population.

“This is a very underserved population,” he said, explaining that they can come across a lot of misinformation and are vulnerable to be taken advantage of.

“We provide access to resources that these individuals might not get because of cost, distance, or trust,” he said.

He said the centers—the others are in Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah—are just one part of a three-part plan to help immigrants and refugees. The others are legal clinics and cultural adaptation classes.

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