Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Faith & Spirituality

Backpacks Help San Diego Refugees Head Back To School

Hundreds of backpacks sit under a stained-glass window at St. Mark's Church, Aug. 18, 2016.
Megan Burks
Hundreds of backpacks sit under a stained-glass window at St. Mark's Church, Aug. 18, 2016.

Volunteers who stuffed backpacks with school supplies, socks and shoes at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in City Heights this week will pass them out to refugee schoolchildren at a celebration on Saturday, where they'll also be offering free haircuts.

The fifth-annual back-to-school bash serves mostly refugees like 15-year-old Anthony Dramani.

"I want to thank the volunteers," Dramani said. "The things they do help the kids to encourage, improve and help in their future."

Advertisement

Dramani is headed to 10th grade at City Heights Prep Charter School this year. He said he wants to become a doctor. Dramani's family is from the area that is now South Sudan and came to San Diego from a Uganda refugee camp last year.

Annet Keji, 12, Robbin Anzodru, 8, and Anthony Dramani, 15, visit St. Mark's Church, Aug. 18, 2016.
Megan Burks
Annet Keji, 12, Robbin Anzodru, 8, and Anthony Dramani, 15, visit St. Mark's Church, Aug. 18, 2016.

Refugees who arrive in San Diego with few belongings receive three months of government aid to cover rent and other necessities while they look for employment. Most stay unemployed much longer because of language barriers or injuries. A survey (Download Acrobat Reader here) by the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans this year estimates most refugee households in City Heights survive on less than $2,000 a month.

Saturday's event is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. at 4227 Fairmount Ave. The church expects to hand out 350 backpacks thanks to donations from churchgoers and The San Diego Union-Tribune, which donated Payless ShoeSource gift cards to buy shoes.