Skip to main content

San Diego Advocate Earns Fellowship, Grant Funds For Work Supporting Immigrants

Ramla Sahid, founder of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans,...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Ramla Sahid, founder of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, sits for an interview at her organization's offices in San Diego's City Heights community, Feb. 12, 2019.

An advocate for refugees in San Diego received a big financial boost to continue her work in support of the region's newcomers.

A California foundation in late January named San Diego’s Ramla Sahid as one of its nine fellows to receive a $250,000 grant. The founder of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) in the City Heights neighborhood was one of about 250 nominees for the Leading Edge Fund Fellowship.

Sahid said she’ll use the money that she'll receive over three years to increase her staff and help develop immigrants into effective advocates who can bring change to their communities.

"We want to build the power, leadership and capacity of newcomer families to kind of be loud in the state around the things that people need to thrive," Sahid said.

She said part of her plan is to create a "leadership pipeline" by mentoring immigrants who volunteer on PANA's steering committee and creating paid roles that can lead to more senior opportunities either within or outside the organization.

PANA has already seen former staffers move on to bigger roles. The group's director of civic engagement, a refugee herself, recently left the organization for a national position with the Muslim American Society.

Using dollars from the first round of funding, Sahid said she plans to hire a member of the immigrant community as an organizer.

The Leading Edge Fund Fellowship comes from the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, which also provides its recipients with coaching, consulting and other support during the three-year program. Timothy Silard, the organization’s president, said he expects to see Sahid, who was nominated by more than one person, make an impact even beyond San Diego.

"I would imagine she may be working up some policy change with the vision of California leading the country in affirming and becoming a place where refugees are not only welcome but celebrated and supported," Silard said in a phone interview.

Sahid is also hiring for a senior policy role and a staff attorney. She said it may be difficult to find members of the local immigrant community with the necessary experience to fill these roles because intermediate opportunities for newcomers to gain the needed skills are lacking.

"I'm not saying that we don't have people with refugee backgrounds who have this experience, but it's been our experience that we're just not getting those resumes," Sahid said.

She hopes her plan to add rungs on the leadership ladder through the steering committee and community organizing roles will help address this issue in San Diego.

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.