After months of planning and coordinating with the San Diego Refugee Forum, our World Refugee Day Celebration was held on Saturday, June 17 here in City Heights. There was Chaldean dancing, Burmese traditional music, henna tattoos and cultural booths from organizations all over the county. Not only that, but over thirty non-profit, governmental, and non-governmental agencies set up resource tables to serve the refugee community here in San Diego.

San Diego has the largest refugee population in California, with over 85,000 resettled here since 1975. As Saturday’s festivities continued on Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park, refugee parents and children shared their experiences coming to the United States and assimilating to American culture. Also, we had the pleasure of Congresswoman Susan Davis briefly speak to the crowd about the importance of creating community dialogue to address the needs of our refugees.

Thanks to UC San Diego Health Department of Government and Community Affairs and the United Women of East Africa Support Team, we set up a resource table for the Refugee Health Unit. Refugee youth participated in an activity to help them understand their neighborhoods as they envisioned their ideal healthy community.

The diversity of the community was well represented, with people writing in multiple languages on our board. As we conversed with refugee youth and listened to their concerns, one girl said she was afraid of getting bullied—her friend had her headscarf pulled off in class. This type of information was very useful in determining what programs and resources the Refugee Health Unit can bring into the community.

It was such an honor to be part of this year’s World Refugee Day Celebration and celebrate the resilience of our refugee community.

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