Refugee Voices

FROM ROCK-BREAKING TO BEAD-MAKING: EAST COUNTY MAN HELPS IMPOVERISHED WOMEN A WORLD AWAY

 

 

By Janis Mork

May 3, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)- James Pearson from Ember Arts has been helping Ugandan women escape poverty by selling their beautiful Acholi beads in America. 

This fascinating story began in 2006, when Pearson first discovered the Acholi beads.  While visiting Uganda for a nonprofit, he saw women working in a rock quarry, doing back-breaking work for just a dollar a day.  Life was extremely difficult for these women, who were war refugees, and for their families.

WELLS FARGO COMMITS TO LEND $55 BILLION TO WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES BY 2020

 

Angels of Hope, serving Chaldean and Arabic communities in El Cajon, is among recent loan recipients fulfilling a dream

April 8, 2013 (El Cajon)—An El Cajon woman’s goal of providing trauma counseling to refugees in East County has been fulfilled, thanks to Wells Fargo & Company. Wells Fargo, a leading lender to women- and diverse-owned businesses, recently announced a commitment to lend $55 billion to woman-owned businesses in the U.S. by 2020.

As part of that commitment, the company has provided a commercial real estate loan for licensed clinical social worker Bernadette Talia to purchase office space in El Cajon to house her new Angels of Hope Counseling practice. 

Talia, who is trilingual and specializes in trauma counseling, is fulfilling a vast need in the East County community, as  many residents are refugees from the Middle East and have suffered traumatic life experiences. Now she will be able to provide affordable counseling and services to individuals and families. Talia’s goal isn’t to just reach the approximate 30,000 Chaldean’s living in El Cajon, but to the whole Arabic speaking community, treating their specific mental health needs.

THOUSANDS CELEBRATE AKITU, CHALDEAN NEW YEAR TRADITION, IN EL CAJON

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 8, 2013 (El Cajon ) – In Babylon 7,313 years ago, Chaldea became the first nation to celebrate Akitu, a New Year Festival heralding the arrival of spring and the renewal of life.   Yesterday the tradition continued in El Cajon’s Prescott Promenade Park, where thousands of local Chaldeans turned out to celebrate the ancient tradition.   View a video: http://youtu.be/YfeKE22-wXw

“We are doing it to celebrate and have some fun with other, and to keep remembering,” Wissam Gello, a local Iraqi Chaldean told ECM.  “Our children will keep doing this every year, to remember and tell the truth.”

INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE GIVES PREVIEW OF FARMERS’ MARKET OPENING MARCH 21 IN DOWNTOWN EL CAJON

By Janis Mork

January 30, 2013 (El Cajon) Updated March 15, 2013- Last week, Troy McKinney, Fresh Fund coordinator from the International Rescue committee (IRC), participated in an exclusive interview with East County Magazine. He gave more details of the future farmers’ market that will be set up on the Prescott Promenade in downtown El Cajon each Thursday starting March 21.

Like the IRC’s farmer’s market started four years ago in City Heights, the El Cajon farmer’s market will help both local refugees and the broader community.

REFUGEE FARMERS FROM MYANMAR HOLD GRAND OPENING OF HORNBILL PRODUCE STAND SATURDAY IN CITY HEIGHTS

March 8, 2013 (City Heights) – Refugee farmers from Myanmar who participate in the International Refugee Committee’s agriculture training program will host a grand opening of their independent farm business , Hornbill Produce, at their new produce stand at City Farmer’s Nursery, 4832 Home Avenue in City Heights.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., enjoy live music with local Bluegrass/American Folk heroes Songs for People and traditional cultural dance from Myanmar. Tour the nursery and visit with the pony, chickens and goats. Stay for lunch at Nate’s Garden Grill.

PROJECT REFUGE BROUGHT HOPE: NOW PROGRAM SEEKS ANGEL DONOR TO SURVIVE

 

ECM previously profiled the amazing efforts of Project Refuge and its efforts to help new refugees who arrive alone in our region. But now the organization has fallen on hard times and was recently forced to shut down its housing for local refugees, including many torture victims. The nonprofit seeks angel donors to help revive its efforts.  Read the stories of survivors helped, as well as Project Refugee organizers, below.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

By Ariele Johannson

The following story is the journey of “Mr. Horeb Michael,” an East African refugee. His name is withheld for protection from reprisal:

February 25, 2013 (San Diego)--You must cross through 20 countries before you arrive in San Diego, to be detained once again. You have no plan to go to America. Your only goal is to escape. To do this you must leave your life: your family, livelihood, friends, and future.

KAREN NEW YEAR CELEBRATION SHOWCASES ETHNIC COMMUNITIES FROM BURMA

By Janis Mork

January 17, 2013 (San Diego) --Recently, the Karen [pronounced ‘care-en’] organization held its fourth annual Karen New Year at Crawford High. Karen New Year is a culture celebration for refugees from Burma.

More than 1,200 refugees from Burma now call San Diego home, resettled here after living in refugee camps in Thailand. Many were forced to leave their homeland after the Burmese government began burning villages as part of a religious persecution. The Karen includes both Buddhists and Christians, who received a warm reception from civic leaders at the celebration. 

LITTLE SAIGON FUNDRAISING AND AWARD DINNER JAN. 13

January 9, 2013 (San Diego) –In response to the long-time needs and present demands of the Vietnamese community, the Little Saigon Foundation is opening a Vietnamese Community Center in order to create a space for social services and cultural interaction.  Early services include a Vietnamese Language School, Youth Leadership Development, Translation services, and physical health programs such as “Càng Khôn Thập Linh” (a combination of Tai-chi and yoga), as well as international ballroom dance. With spaces offered to local community groups to meet and hold events, the Center is the first Vietnamese Community Center in City Heights.  Up until now, the organization has been operating on mostly the support of volunteers, but is now looking to add permanent paid staff.  As such, the organizations will host the Little Saigon Fundraising and Award Dinner on Jan. 13 from 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. at the Lucky Star Restaurant, 3894 54th St., San Diego.

PETITION LAUNCHED TO DESIGNATE LITTLE SAIGON DISTRICT IN EAST SAN DIEGO

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 1, 2013 (San Diego)—“The Vietnamese community in San Diego is in need of a strong sense of identity in order to unite in the revitalization of our social and economic life,”Frank Vuong, president of the Little Saigon San Diego Foundation, writes.

He hopes to see the Vietnamese community become a cultural asset for our region by putting it on the map.  So the Foundation has launched a petition to designate a Little Saigon District in San Diego’s Talmadge/Kensington area along El Cajon Boulevard between Euclid and Highland Avenues.

Read or sign the petition here:   https://www.change.org/petitions/san-diego-elected-officials-and-other-stakeholders-designate-a-little-saigon-san-diego-district#

LAWYERS CLUB OF SAN DIEGO AWARDS $16,000 IN GRANTS, 3 SCHOLARSHIPS AT ANNUAL HOLIDAY LUNCHEON

December 27, 2012 (San Diego)--Lawyers Club of San Diego presented grants totaling $16,000 to three local nonprofit organizations and awarded three law student scholarships at its annual holiday luncheon December 13, 2012.

Lawyers Club, through its Fund for Justice, awarded grants to Voices for Children in support of its Infant and Toddler program, to Casa Cornelia Law Center in support of its programs helping provide pro bono legal services to indigent immigrants in the San Diego community, and to the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program in support of its domestic violence clinic and the annual Women’s Resource Fair.

NILE SISTERS FOUNDER ELIZABETH LOU WINS ELEANOR ROOSEVELT HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD 2012

December 7, 2012 (San Diego) – Guests from more than 20 nations were on hand as Elizabeth Lou, founder and CEO of Nile Sisters in San Diego, received the prestigious Eleanor Roosvelt humanitarian award from the United Nations Association USA in San Diego. 

The award, presented at the Asmara Eritrean & Ethiopian Restaurant in San Diego in October, recognizes Lou’s dedicated work to help refugee women in our region. Accepting the award from UNA San Diego President Karen Longstreth, Lou said the award honors all supporters of the Nile Sisters.

East County Magazine has previously profiled Lou's remarkable achievements in a September 15, 2011 story:

FREE AQUAPONICS CLASSES FOR REFUGEES: LEARN HOW TO GROW FISH AND VEGETABLES WITH NO SOIL

November 25, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)—Refugees living in El Cajon and City Heights are invited to free workshops at the New Roots Aqua Farm, 4035 Fairmount Avenue in San Diego.  Learn how to grow healthy organic vegetables in urban areas with no soil and minimal water!  Also see New Roots’  1,200 square foot aquaponics system that includes fish farming with tilapia that are sustainably raised and hormone free.

Workshops in December will be offered in several languages including English, Swahili, Spanish and Arabic.  See schedule below for details.

ARAB FILM FESTIVAL PREMIERS IN SAN DIEGO NOV. 16 & 17

November 12, 2012 (San Diego) – San Diego’s Karama joins forces with the Arab Film Festival (AFF) to bring the premier Arab Film Festival to Balboa Park’s Museum of Photographic Arts, 1649 El Prado, San Diego on November 16 & 17.  The Festival’s opening night begins at 6:30 p.m. with a reception followed by films that include the short Bahiya & Mahmoud, and Where Do We Go Now by Toronto Film Festival Audience Award winning director Nadine Labaki.

ARE YOU A REFUGEE FROM EAST AFRICA LIVING IN SAN DIEGO?

(Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, Liberia)

October 31, 2012 (Sa Diego) -- Life in a conflict zone can be traumatizing, and moving to the U.S. doesn’t make it go away. In order to develop better services for the local East African community, we need your help.

If you are 18 years or older, please come at one of the times listed below and complete a questionnaire about trauma.  Each participant will be given $15.00.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR NON-CITIZENS, CITIZENS AND AB540 STUDENTS

By Bill Weaver

October 29, 2012 (San Diego) –San Diego is home to immigrants and refugees from around the world.  The Mano A Mano Foundation has provided the following list of scholarships available to non-citizens as well as citizens and AB 540 students. AB540 is a California bill passed on October 12, 2001 that allows undocumented students who meet certain requirements to pay in-state tuition instead of out-of-state tuition in California's higher institutions. For more information see ab540.com.

OCEANLEAF AWARDS RECOGNIZE COMMUNITY LEADERS IN SOMALI REFUGEE COMMUNITY

By Ariele Johannson

October 28, 2012 (San Diego)--During the Somali Civil War, the number of refugees admitted to the United States soared starting in 1991. San Diego is now home to the second largest East African refugee community with an estimated population of 30,000. A real need arose to integrate the growing number of new immigrant refugees into the San Diego community. Ahmed Sahid, President and CEO of Somali Family Service of San Diego, states, “It’s very important to us that we work with other like-minded organizations to accomplish our goals.”

CHALDEAN ELECTIONS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

October 18, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – The editor of the Chaldean Times in Detroit, Michigan has asked that we provide a link to their recent articles on elections in which Chaldean candidates were running for office.  El Cajon has the second highest population of Iraqi Chaldean Christians in the U.S., after Detroit.

AFRICAN RESTAURANT WEEK OCT. 18-28 CELEBRATES CUISINE, MUSIC AND CULTURE

October 15, 2012 (San Diego)--African Restaurant Week, which starts on Friday, October 19th and ends on Sunday, October 28th is an event being hosted by a variety of African restaurants to showcase and promote African businesses and culture in San Diego.  Just like San Diego Restaurant Week, participating businesses from throughout the City of San Diego will create a special prix fixe menu featuring special appetizers, main courses and desserts.

SOMALI AND EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY CELEBRATION FOCUSES ON PEACE AND UNITY

The 2nd Annual OceanLeaf Awards Celebration recognizes individuals who have helped to bridge the gap between the East African refugee community and greater San Diego

October 15, 2012 (San Diego)—Somali Family Service of San Diego is hosting the 2nd Annual OceanLeaf Awards Celebration to recognize the accomplishments of San Diego leaders who have contributed to the advancement of the Somali and East African refugee community in the city. The event celebrates the refugee journey to a new homeland (Ocean) and unity among cultures (Leaf).

LGBT IMMIGRANTS, ASYLEES AND REFUGEE SEEKERS EXPLORE EMERGING ISSUES SEPT 29

September 20, 2012 (San Diego) -- Join SAME and The "Centro Cultural De La Raza" as we Co-Host this important subject on  September 29th, 2012 from 6 –9p.m. at Centro Cultural de la Raza, 2004 Park Blvd., San Diego, 92101.

Experienced attorneys will speak about issues impacting LGBT immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including the progress made in adjudicating claims by same-sex  bi-national couples, the impact of DOMA litigation or repeal of DOMA on LGBT immigrants and much more.

REFUGEES' COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE (CSA) PROGRAM LAUNCHES IN CITY HEIGHTS

September 13, 2012 (City Heights) — San Diego is home to refugees from around the world – people who have fled war, famine or persecution in their homelands. Now you can help refugees rebuild their lives by purchasing fruits and vegetables grown by local refugees — delivered fresh each week at a cost of just $12.

U.S. CITIZEN FROM SAN DIEGO LANDS ON NO-FLY LIST

 
July 4, 2012 (San Diego) – The San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is speaking out in hopes of aiding a San Diego citizen of Somali heritage who is stranded overseas—the second local Muslim in a month to be barred reentry to the U.S.   
 
Ali Ahmed, a student majoring in journalism  at City College, is an American citizen. He came here as a refugee  and recently sought to return to Africa to meet his father, who he became separated from during the war. The two were slated to meet in Kenya, where many Somalis sought refuge.

2012 HEALTH FAIR IN HONOR OF WORLD REFUGEE DAY: SATURDAY IN CITY HEIGHTS

 

June 21, 2012 (City Heights – Somali Family Service of San Diego, in partnership with the East African Collaborative, will host its fourth annual Health Fair in Honor of World Refugee Day on June 23 from 1- 6 p.m. at the City Heights Community Park, south of the City Heights Weingart Branch Library at 3795 Fairmount Ave., San Diego.

The event brings together East African communities in San Diego in a setting where residents can get health checkups and learn about health topics including mental health, how to access care, nutrition, exercise, preventive screening and care. Community groups will also provide educational information booths in the park.

LOCAL ATTORNEY ESTABLISHES EDUCATION CENTER TO SERVICE FAMILIES WITHIN SAN DIEGO COMMUNITY

 
June 6, 2012 (San Diego) — Realizing a need to have individualized enrichment programs for students, a San Diego attorney seeks to develop an education center to serve the entire family. Breana Ha, who came to the United States as a young child in 1979 as one of the boat people, said while there are several organizations serving the Vietnamese community in San Diego, there is, however, not one that provides educational services for the entire family. That idea gave birth to the Vietnamese American Center: Education, Recreation and Culture (VACERC). 

SOMALI FAMILY SERVICES SEEKS NOMINATIONS FOR COMMUNITY AWARDS

 

June 2, 2012 (San Diego) -  The Somali Family Service (SFS) is gearing up for their second Annual OceanLeaf Awards Celebration and is now accepting nominations.
 
San Diego is home to the nation’s second largest Somali refugee population of more than 35,000 individuals. For over a decade, the SFS of San Diego has been working hard to serve this emerging East African community, seeing it progress educationally, economically and socially.

 

NEW BOOK OFFERS HELP FOR SUDANESE REFUGEES, FAMILIES IN SAN DIEGO AND SUDAN

May 30, 2012 (San Diego) – “The clash between traditional South Sudanese values and western values threatens the survival of families already rocked by decades of war, poverty and injustice,” says Walter Davis. “This book provides powerful tools with which the South Sudanese people can experience an epiphany."

Davis is editor of South Sudanese Community Insights, authored by John Chuol Kuek, chairman of the Southern Sudanese Community Center in San Diego and a refugee camp survivor. View an interview with Kuek conducted by Davis as guest host of Consider the Possibilities:
 

IMMIGRANT, REFUGEE AND BORDER-BASED LEADERS RECEIVE GRANTS TO VISIT STATE CAPITOL

April 23, 2012 (San Diego) -- The Foundation for Change announced $15,000 in grants to 15 local organizations in the Immigrant, Refugee & Border-Based Communities to attend Immigrant Day in Sacramento on May 21.  Grants of $1,000 each cover travel expenses for grantees, participation in a pre-event Orientation, Media Advocacy session at the Equality Alliance in May and a debrief session, in June. 

ENGLISH-LANGUAGE CLASSES AT EAST COUNTY COLLEGE DISTRICT PREPARE IRAQI IMMIGRANTS FOR THE WORKFORCE

 March 31, 2012 (Rancho San Diego) -- A pilot program for recent Iraqi immigrants that teaches English in the context of office work is being offered at Cuyamaca College through a partnership between the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and San Diego County.

 

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