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San Diego Immigrants Examine Past Challenges To Help Future Newcomers

May 14, 2018 9:53 a.m.

A nonprofit program is asking the public to contribute ideas for making San Diego more welcoming to immigrants.

Related Story: San Diego Immigrants Examine Past Challenges To Help Future Newcomers


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>> Every year, thousands of immigrants from across the globe leave behind the only life they have known to make San Diego their new home. A new nonprofit program is asking the public to contribute ideas for making the community more welcoming. KPBS explores how they are making it happen.
>> It is not easy you know, the fact that we do not speak English at the beginning, when we are going to school--
>> Reporter: Congolese refugee is a college student who came to San Diego in 2012 when he was 17 years old, from a refugee camp in Tanzania.
>> I grew up in or if you can for 15 years--
>> Reporter: He is one about two dozen community members talking about how to help immigrants transitioning to new lives in San Diego.
>> And I just asked people three simple questions of what are your hopes and dreams, what are some barriers you face, and what solutions do you want to see?
>> Reporter: Samuel Choi is the lead organizer of welcoming San Diego, a coalition of agencies and nonprofit organizations whose goal is to create better support for immigrants, so they may more easily integrate and contribute and send ego.
>> So things are already existing, like what can we do to either get those programs out to the communities that are not yet aware about these, or specific language groups, specific ethnic groups, that are not being engaged--
>> Reporter: He says discussions around education are often raised because the events are held in school classrooms, but the forums also tackle topics of implement, public safety and more. He said that is collected through the discussions at the meeting, but also through surveys.
>> One is a quantitative one, where it is 20 questions, ranging from you know, how do you feel about access to healthcare, or housing, or just, simply how do you feel safe, do you feel welcome in your neighborhood? So, we will capture those, to see if there are any trends, in terms of demographics, of a breakdown of refugee versus society, versus immigrants, or age--
>> Reporter: Troy will compile all the input he collects, and a final report to this fall. He says they are still figuring out what recommendations to make to the city of San Diego.
>> Now we have this data, and all these-- input from the community, how do we actually turn that into a report that is both aspirational, but not too pie-in-the-sky.
>> Reporter: Anytime the workshops may already be leaving an impact, a 16-year-old says conversations with newly arrived, says the welcoming role she can play in her own school. The daughter of an immigrant says this especially applies to students who may also speak Japanese.
>> As a high school student, I like going to club events, like hey, join a club you know, we are going to be talking about this and this, is going be so much fun. This is how you can get involved, within our committee, and how you can share your ideas, and you can say oh, come join this sport.
>> Reporter: He says it is that time of opportunity that helped him-- he struggled using English to build connections with his peers when he first arrived six years ago, but a nonprofit running club in city Heights helped him connect a different way.
>> What we will all share is coming off, like all we all had the passion of running, so we were also like working together, and that really brings us, that really brings us, like a family.
>> Reporter: He is now addressing to work language barriers for other refugees, as a fellow with the local nonprofit rise San Diego.
>> I always take kids to the library, to help them to read a book, and so I put them together, to read to each other, so they can understand the literature, and be able to read to their parents, letters and they can take their parents to the hospital, and translate for them--
>> Reporter: The welcoming San Diego initiative also comes from a San Diego fellow-- KPBS Ms.
>> Two more forums are scheduled for this month, you can go to for the details. And, Cal and Dell is a welcoming San Diego funder which also supports city Heights coverage at KPBS.