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City Heights Event Welcomes Refugees To San Diego

City Heights Event Welcomes Refugees To San Diego

As part of a national campaign, the YMCA of San Diego County organized an event in City Heights to help U.S.-born residents and newcomers connect.

As part of a national campaign, the YMCA of San Diego County organized an event in City Heights to help U.S.-born residents and newcomers connect.

Growing up in San Diego County as the child of refugee parents, Hayatt Yasin said it was often difficult to connect with her grade school classmates.

"Oh you look really weird," Yasin said they'd tell her when she wore styles from East Africa. The attention would bring her down, she said.

"And it was just really hard and I was very embarrassed by it because we were always pushed like assimilation, assimilation, but I learned as a kid that I'm proud of where I'm from," Yasin said. "I'm proud that my parents came from another country and they worked hard in this country."

Top Refugee Arrivals In San Diego County

Data from 10/1/2015 to 9/8/2015

  1. Iraq: 879
  2. Syria: 632
  3. Afghanistan: 495
  4. Congo: 305
  5. Somalia: 224
  6. Haiti: 174
  7. Cuba: 143
  8. Zaire: 111
  9. Burma: 73
  10. Iran: 68

Total Arrivals: 3,228

Source: San Diego Refugee Forum

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

To help U.S.-born residents and newcomers build better relationships, Yasin celebrated National Welcoming Week at the Copley-Price Family YMCA in City Heights. A few dozen people attended the Thursday event that connected San Diegans with refugee and immigrant organizations, including the nonprofit United Women of East Africa, where Yasin is a youth coordinator.

The 20-year-old college student said events like this can shed misconceptions about refugees.

"There's always just a narrative that refugees are looked down upon that we're just scared people," she said. "But we had lives before the wars in our country before we came here and we still have lives now. It's just that our parents want better lives for us and the future generations."

National Welcoming Week comes from the nonprofit Welcoming America, which partners with the White House. The organization's goal is to create inclusive communities in the U.S.

YMCA of USA is a Welcoming America member and the Y in San Diego County was among the regional chapters picked to help lead the way.

YMCA of San Diego's Osmar Abad says Welcoming Week comes at a key moment.

"Currently there is a very toxic rhetoric across the country, and you know its presidential election and there's a lot of misinformation and so there's also a lot of anonymity and separation amongst our communities, so that's the challenge we're trying to address," said the corporate specialist for diversity and inclusion.

Abad said Thursday's celebration is the first in an upcoming series of welcoming events.

Representatives from the International Rescue Committee, Union Law Group and Aja Project also attended.

The Aja Project is a Speak City Heights partner.

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