San Diego has the largest refugee population in California, with over 85,000 resettled here since 1975. In observance of this, the San Diego Refugee Forum hosted a World Refugee Day celebration on Saturday, June 17, in City Heights. There was Chaldean dancing, Burmese traditional music, henna tattoos and cultural booths from organizations all over the county. Over thirty non-profit, governmental, and non-governmental agencies set up resource tables at this event to serve the refugee community here in San Diego.
As the festivities continued in Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park, refugee parents and children shared their experiences of arriving to the United States and assimilating to American culture. Attendees also had the pleasure of hearing Congresswoman Susan Davis briefly speak to the crowd about the importance of creating community dialogue regarding the needs of our refugees.
Thanks to UC San Diego Health and United Women of East Africa Support Team, our Center set up a resource table for our Refugee Health Unit. In addition to connecting people with resources related to refugee health, we engaged with celebration-goers by providing a board and markers and asking participants to answer the question “what makes an ideal healthy community?” The variety of responses and languages used to respond on the board was reflective of the diverse population of City Heights. A common theme was refugee youths’ openness about their experiences since moving to the United States. One Muslim girl said she was afraid of getting bullied—her friend had had her headscarf pulled off in class—and would like to see her community as a safe space for everyone regardless of their differences. Responses such as these will be used to better understand what types of programs and resources are needed and how the Refugee Health Unit can promote health equity and well-being in the community.