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Refugee Voices




NEED HELP? RESOURCE GUIDE FOR REFUGEES

Find resources for refugees throughout San Diego County by clicking this link. Many services are available including help with resettlement, immigration, education, jobs, literacy, healthcare, and much more. 

You can also find an interactive map here.

COMING TO AMERICA: AN IRAQI IMMIGRANT'S REMARKABLE JOURNEY - MAY 1 IN LEMON GROVE

 

April 19, 2014 (Lemon Grove) - Continuing this season's theme, "immigrant history alive right now," the Lemon Grove Historical Society will present Warda Yonan on the "History Alive" lecture series on May 1 at 7 p.m. in the H. Lee House Cultural Center, 3205 Olive, Lemon Grove.

IMMIGRANTS START BUSINESSES, PLAY CRITICAL ROLE IN THE RECOVERY

 

Photo: immigrant-owned businesses in San Diego’s Little Mogadishu, Little Saigon, and downtown El Cajon

By Nadin Abbott

April 9, 2014 (San Diego)—In recent years there has been considerable debate over how to modify the immigration system and how to grow the economy. Both are related--and both matter to not just the national economy, but our regional economy. There has also been renewed emphasis in growing our export capacity, which has lagged. But there has always been an emphasis on small businesses as the engine of American economy—and now a new report shows that immigrants are fueling that engine.

SAN DIEGO SOMALI LEADER HONORED BY FBI FOR EFFORTS TO IMPROVE LIVES

 

Photo:Ahmed Idlle San Diego Somali leader, receives Director's Community Leadership Award from FBI Director James Comey at FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2014 (San Diego)— In a ceremony at FBI Headquarters on April 4, 2014, Director James B. Comey recognized the recipients of the 2013 Director’s Community Leadership Award. These leaders, selected by their area FBI field office, have demonstrated outstanding contributions to their local communities through service.

MISS MIDDLE EAST BEAUTY PAGEANT SET FOR APRIL 3

 

March 26, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) --The  San Diego East County Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce is proud to sponsor the Miss Middle East Beauty Pageant.

STUDENTS FOR REFUGEE AWARENESS

 

By Lizbeth Francisco, Hannah Haller, Faisal Imami, & Damien Martinez

The authors are seniors at Olympian High School in Chula Vista, CA working together to help refugees by organizing a petition for their cause.

March 5, 2014 (San Diego)-- Nations throughout human history have been torn apart by civil war, natural disasters, famine, and foreign and domestic wars leaving millions of people displaced in a region they once called home. Refugees, as they are called, are forced to live in horrid conditions, usually having to take shelter in government provided camps; these camps however, have no rules on sanitation, drug use, or hardly have an intact system of peacekeeping. Other refugees flee their home countries to seek asylum in other neighboring countries, not facing the same perils as theirs.

POPE FRANCIS APPOINTS BISHOP SORO TO SERVE FOR CHALDEAN AND ASSYRIAN CHURCH

 

January 29, 2014 (El Cajon) – Pope Francis has assigned a Titular See of Foraziana to Bishop Bawai Soro for service of the Diocese of Saint Peter the Apostole of San Diego for Chaldeans and Assyrians.  This is a culmination of an eight-year process, since Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo received Bishop Soro, his clergy, and thousands of their Assyrian Christian faithful into the Catholic Church. Bishop Jammo hosted a reception to honor the newly assigned Bishop at St. Peter’s Church in El Cajon on January 14.

 “Our Diocese congratulates the whole church on the appointment of new pastors, and roles to help strengthen the congregation,” a statement issued by the Diocese reads. “Pope Francis has proven himself to be an integral part of the ever-growing Catholic Church. We are incredibly humbled by his recognition and appointment.”

3 LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES URGE PROTECTED STATUS FOR PHILIPPINE NATI ONALS IN U.S. IN WAKE OF TYPHOON HAIYAN

November 22, 2013 (San Diego) -- Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) led a delegation letter calling on the Department of Homeland Security to temporarily halt the deportation of Filipino nationals because of the devastating impact Super Typhoon Haiyan has had on the Philippines.

“It would be irresponsible to send individuals into a situation with the level of destruction and suffering occurring in the Philippines right now,” said Davis. “I hope acting Secretary Beers will recognize the gravity of this situation and provide some certainty and relief to those who may be facing deportation.”

Davis and several her House colleagues, including local Democratic representatives Juan Vargas and Scott Peters, asked for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Filipino nationals in the U.S.  TPS is designed to protect individuals from being sent home to countries that may be too dangerous for them to return. It would also grant them permission to work in the U.S. 

WOMEN’S REFUGEE COMMISSION CITES NEEDS OF WOMEN, CHILDREN AFTER TYPHOON DEVASTATES PHILIPPINES

November 14, 2013 – As international relief groups pour into the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, the Women’s Refugee Commission has issued an alert identifying ten crucial needs to protect the victims – including special needs of women and children. 

Beyond such essentials as food and water, the WRC urges steps to prevent women and children from sexual violence or human trafficking and to provide medical care to minimize mortality among pregnant women and their babies.  Other needs include providing education for displaced youths, economic opportunities for women, and help for the disabled.

MAYOR LEWIS IN CONTROVERSY OVER COMMENTS ON CHALDEANS

 

Full tape of interview  reveals comments praising Chaldeans in addition to remarks deemed culturally insensitive by cricis

By Miriam Raftery

October 24, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – At Tuesday’s El Cajon City Council meeting, a crowd of Irarqi Chaldean community members denounced  remarks made by Mayor Mark Lewis in an interview with Progressive Magazine for an article published in May.  Critics denounce the remarks as insensitive and reinforcing racial stereotypes. 

Supporters say the comments were taken out of context.  An audiotape of the full one-hour interview posted by RawStory in fact reveals many positive statements made by the Mayor about Chaldeans, as well as the remarks that stirred controversy.  Some backers of the Mayor have suggested a financial motive behind the criticism emerging months after the story first ran, noting that a leading critic represents Chaldean store owners chafing under a newly enacted city policy restricting alcohol sales.

SOMALI BANTU HONORS NATIONAL HERO

 

African beads auctioned, traditional dances showcased

By Janis Mork

October 3, 2013 (San Diego) - The Somali Bantu Association of America held a fundraiser for their youth group to receive new supplies and computer activities. Throughout the event in September, there was also a silent auction on African beads.

Isha Aweyso, a volunteer of the association, welcomed everyone. “We have things you can buy to help our community,” he said, noting that the event benefits students. “I’m really thankful to have this association community.”

INTERPRETING FOR CALIFORNIA EVENT HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR MORE MEDICAL TRANSLATORS

 

By Trang Pham

September 30, 2013 (San Diego)--On September 27th, Assemblymember Toni Atkins met with community members, medical interpreters and former patients to honor those who have been affected by language access barriers at medical facilities. She also called on Governor Jerry Brown to sign legislation to improve patients’ access to interpreters.

FUNDRAISER TONIGHT TO HELP KENYA TERRORISM VICTIMS

 

September 27, 2013 (San Diego) – A candlelight vigil and fundraiser to help victims of the terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya will be held tonight at 8 p.m. at Flavors of East Africa, a Kenyan restaurant at 2322 El Cajon Blvd. , San Diego 92104.   Ten percent of all proceeds from food sold tonight will be donated to the Kenyan Red Cross.

HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES COLLABORATIVE ADDRESSES HOUSING AND OTHER ISSUES IN REFUGEE COMMUNITY

 

By Janis Mork

August 29, 2013 (San Diego) - At the San Diego Refugee Forum on August 20, the focus was on housing issues faced by refugees. The forum covered a variety of programs on housing and other topics, including announcements of upcoming events in San Diego and East County. 

Faith Espejo, Director of Program and Operations, and Tina Parra, Resources Coordinator of San Diego HUB, from Housing Opportunities Collaborative addressed housing issues. HUB serves as an information clearinghouse by consolidating housing-related information and making it easily accessible to the public and partners, and also acts as a hub for its partners by conducting outreach events to educate and provide housing counseling services to the public. 

WELCOME BACK CENTER PREPARES FOREIGN-TRAINED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS FOR U.S. LICENSES

 

August 8, 2013 (El Cajon) – Foreign-trained doctors, nurses and medical technicians may help fill the gap between the number of health care professionals working in the United States today and the larger number expected to be needed when the federal Affordable Care Act goes into effect on January 1, 2014.

Welcome Back Centers at Grossmont College and eight other locations around the United States help to coordinate local efforts to prepare the foreign medical professionals for their American licensing examinations.

SOMALI-AMERICAN CULTURAL FEST JUNE 29 IN CITY HEIGHTS

 

June 26, 2013 (San Diego) – Commemorating the 53rd anniversary of Somali independence, the 9th annual Somali American Cultural Fest will be held on Saturday, June 29 from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Market Creek Plaza at Jacob Center in City Heights, 3- 8 p.m. 

Thousands of Somali refugees and immigrants now call San Diego home.  The event will feature music, dance, poetry, a fashion show, children’s activities, food and vendor booths as well as free health screenings. The event is organized by Somali Youth United.

WORLD REFUGEE DAY HEALTHCARE FAIR DRAWS HUNDREDS

 

 

Event is part of massive roll-out to educate local refugees on new healthcare laws and more

By Miriam Raftery

June 24, 2013 (City Heights) – “This is the largest refugee resettlement community in California and one of the largest in the United States,” Councilmember Marti Emerald said at Somali Family Service Community Healthcare Fair held on World Refugee Day event Saturday in City Heights Community Park, in collaboration with East African Collaborative.

WORLD REFUGEE HEALTH FAIR JUNE 22 IN CITY HEIGHTS

 

June 22, 2013 (City Heights)--The Fifth Annual Health Fair in Honor of World Refugee Day willl be held on June 22 in the City Heights Community Park at 3795 Fairmont Avenue, San Diego from 1-5 p.m. This year Somali Family Services is partnering once again with the East African Collaborative - a collaborative of eight organizations working with East African communities in San Diego. The Fair’s theme is Healthcare Reform, and this year SFS aims to inform the East African community about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Admission is free and includes free healthcare screenings and presentations, cultural entertainment, children's activities, giveaways, and more.

WORLD REFUGEE DAY JUNE 29

 

June 21, 2013 (San Diego) – June is International Refugee Month and the Nile Sisters Development Initiative is sponsoring World Refugee Day on June 29 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 6035 University Avenue, San Diego, in the parking lot.  The event will celebrate the diverse refugee cultures in our community with food, music, entertainment, raffles and more.

REFUGEE FARMERS OFFER FRESH PRODUCE DELIVERED TO EAST COUNTY

 

Want fresh vegetables?  Now you can pick up garden-fresh produce in El Cajon or City Heights—or have it delivered directly to your home, all while helping local refugees from war-torn nations.

To get started, just join the International Rescue Committee’s community supported agriculture (CSA) program for this summer season.  Participants will receive a colorful share of farm-fresh and local vegetables grown by refugee farmers participating in IRC’s sustainable agriculture program.

DISPLACED BY DISATERS: 32.4 MILLION PEOPLE UPROOTED IN BOTH RICH AND POOR COUNTRIES

 

 

May 13, 2013  (Geneva) A new report released today by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reveals that 32.4 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2012 by disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes.  While Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, 1.3 million were displaced in rich countries, with the USA particularly affected.

Nearly all (98%) of displacement in 2012 was linked to climate- and weather-related events.

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#

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