Refugee Voices

SERENITY HOUSE, EL CAJON’S NEWEST SHOP, OFFERS CHRISTIAN BOOKS & MUSIC IN ARABIC


Egyptian proprietor also serves up coffee, snacks, and free classes to help Arabic-speaking residents

By Miriam Raftery
 

January 17, 2011 (El Cajon) --

On Saturday, throngs of well-wishers  stopped by on Saturday to bid welcome (ahlan wa sahaln, أهلا وسهلا) to Zohny Hanna at his new business, Serenity House in downtown El Cajon. The store/coffee shop offers Christian books, art, and music in Arabic. Located on Main Street just east of Magnolia, Serenity House also offers free classes in English and community orientations for East County’s growing population of Arabic-speaking immigrants, asylees, and refugees.

 

“This is my land now. America is my new home,” says Hanna, who came here on a tourist vista back in 1997 with his wife and children, then received asylum status due to persecution of Coptic Christians in his native Egypt.

 

BOOK REVIEW: SKY OF RED POPPIES REVEALS THE ENDURING POWER OF FRIENDSHIP AMID A CLASH OF CULTURES



Sky Of Red Poppies, By Zohreh Ghahremani (Turquoise Books, San Diego, CA, 2010, 305 Pages.)

Updated Review with podcast interview of author on "East County Magazine Live!" radio show on KNSJ 89.1 FM.

Book Review by Dennis Moore

 

August 16, 2014 (San Diego)--Zohreh Ghahremani, an artist, writer and gardener residing in the San Diego area, has written a stunning and poetic tale about two girls coming of age in Iran during the 1960s. The theme of the book questions how much can a friendship change your life? Set against the backdrop of a nation forced to mute its profound identity, Sky of Red Poppies is a novel about culture, politics and the redeeming power of friendships.

IRAQI CHRISTIANS IN EAST COUNTY TO HOLD PRAYER GATHERING TONIGHT IN REMEMBRANCE OF THOSE KILLED BY AL QAEDA IN NOV. 1 ATTACK DURING MASS SERVICE IN IRAQ

 

November 3, 2010 (San Diego's East County) – East County’s Iraqi Christians will hold a prayer gathering tonight from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Prescott Promenade at 201 East Main Street, El Cajon.

 

A crowd of 500 or more is expected to attend the gathering, which is held in remembrance of Iraqi Christians massacred November 1st in an Al Qaeda attack on a Catholic church in Iraq.

CHALDEAN FESTIVAL SEPT 4 & 5 IN ELCAJON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 1, 2010(El Cajon ) – Folk dancing, authentic Chaldean food, live music and singing performed in Aramaic-Chaldean and English will all be part of the festivities at the Chaldean Annual Festival in El Cajon. A $5 admission/voucher may be used towards food, children’s games, or purchases from vendors. An art and cultural exhibition will also be held.

LANTERN FESTIVAL CELEBRATES VIETNAMESE CULTURE IN CITY HEIGHTS AUG. 27-29

By Ray M. Wong
 

August 25, 2010 (City Heights) -- Phong Huynh came to the U.S. as a refugee with his family from Vietnam in 1990 at age 12. One of his fondest memories of the country where he spent most of his childhood is the Mid-Autumn Festival called “Tet Trung Thu” celebrated every year.

 

1,800 DISABLED, ELDERLY REFUGEES LOCALLY TO LOSE FEDERAL BENEFITS



Aide workers voice fears over impact of cuts on East County’s growing refugee population; San Diego’s Congressional representatives have thus far declined to take action to extend benefits

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 3, 2010 (San Diego) – Over 3,800 disabled and elderly refugees who came to the U.S. legally, all victims of persecution or torture, have been notified that they will lose Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on October 1st. Those slated to lose benefits include about 1,800 Iraq War refugees living in East County.

 

“They don’t have any other income. They want to find work and they can’t. They are too old and too sick,” said Joseph Ziauddin, president of the East County Refugee Center in El Cajon. Ziauddin estimates that there are around 40,000 Iraqis now living in East County.  Asked how many of East County’s Iraqis are currently refugees, he replied, “Ninety percent.”

SURVIVOR RECALLS HARROWING ESCAPE FROM SADDAM HUSSEIN’S SECRET POLICE PRISON

By Miriam Raftery

August 4, 2010 (El Cajon ) – Joseph Ziauddin, president of the East County Refugee Center, rolls up his sleeve to reveal deep scars on his forearm acquired during a daring escape. “This saved my life,” said Ziauddin, who said he was thrown in jail and tortured daily for three months because he loaned money to a friend who opposed Saddam Hussein, then president of Iraq. “I am the only one who fled from the secret police prison.”

Today, he dedicates his life to helping fellow refugees, teaching English classes at the Refugee Center. He has funded his efforts out of his own pocket, he said, but seeks help for the growing number of refugees in East County. Many of them, like himself, have endured torture or other horrors.

BOOK REVIEW: BAREFOOT IN BAGHDAD


Barefoot in Baghdad, By Manal M. Omar (Sourcebooks, Naperville, Illinois, 2010, 242 pages.)

 

Book Review by Dennis Moore


Barefoot in Baghdad is a Muslim American Woman’s Story of Struggle, Sisterhood, and Love in the Chaos of Iraq

 

July 29, 2010 (San Diego) -- Manal M. Omar, author of Barefoot in Baghdad, an international aid worker from an Arab and Muslim heritage, has provided valuable first-hand insights into events a world away following the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster. One of the book's major characters is now a prominent member of San Diego's Iraqi community.

UGANDAN REFUGEE SEEKS WORK AS HE ADAPTS TO LIFE IN AN AMERICAN URBAN JUNGLE


Raised in a jungle in war-torn Uganda, Nathanael now struggles to adapt to the American lifestyle in an urban jungle in City Heights


By Diana Barreto

July 12, 2010 (San Diego) -- A member of the Acholi tribe in northern Uganda and a resident in an African refugee camp for 12 years, James Nathanael came to the United States with high hopes and great expectations.

He left his home and tribe in Northern Uganda in 1986 because of ongoing wars in his area. “There was a lot of killing,” he recalls. “I had to leave the country due to fear.” He lived a fulfilling but simple life as a student and a farmer prior to these wars. But the danger that surrounded him drove him from the life he knew and loved.

CHILD ABUSE WORKSHOP JULY 26

 

July 10, 2010 (San Diego)--The family education department of the International Rescue Committee – San Diego will host a 2-hour workshop on July 26, 2010, from 9:00 a.m.to 11 a.m., on child abuse prevention (with an emphasis on sexual abuse prevention) for child care workers and any interested community members.

INTERNATIONAL NIGHT OF NETWORKING JULY 14

 

June 29, 2010 (City Heights) – Refugee Works and the San Diego Refugee Foreign invite local businesses to an International Night of Networking on Wednesday, July 14 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at City Heights Center conference hall, 4305 University Avenue, San Diego. The event will showcase talents of foreign-trained professionals, forced to leave their homes because of war or persecution, who are now legal U.S. residents.

 

CELEBRATE WORLD REFUGEE DAY WITH A 2K WALK AND SOMALI FAMILY SERVICE HEALTH FAIR JUNE 19

 

June 13, 2010 (City Heights) – A 2K fun walk will be held Saturday to promote refugee awareness and senior fitness, followed by the Somali Family Service Health Fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the City Heights Community Park, 3795 Fairmount Avenue. Savor ethnic food and entertainment, meet healthcare providers and local refugee/immigrant and nonprofit organizations, and hear from prominent speakers including Mayor Jerry Sanders, Congresswoman Susan Davis, and City Councilmember Todd Gloria.

SUMMER MUSIC & CULTURE FESTIVAL COMES TO EAST COUNTY AUGUST 8

June 10, 2010 (Rancho San Diego) – Celebrating East County’s multitude of cultures from around the world, the Rancho San Diego-Jamul Chamber of Commerce is organizing a Summer Music & Culture Festival. The event, which is free to the public, will be held Sunday, August 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College.

Cultural performers such as dancers, singers and bands as we ll as artisans, crafters and food/beverage vendors are invited to participate as sponsors.

HOPE AND PERSEVERENCE ARE THEMES AT CUYAMACA COLLEGE COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY

 

“Do what’s in your heart, and you will succeed.” – Valedictorian Bushra Rezoqi, an Iraqi immigrant and mother of three young children

June 4, 2010 (El Cajon) – Under a bright summer evening sky, students looking forward to a bright future were urged to have hope and to persevere no matter the odds at the 32nd annual Cuyamaca College commencement ceremony on Wednesday, June 2nd.

 

Class of 2010 Valedictorian Bushra Rezoqi shared her own story of hope, optimism and persistence in her address. A Chaldean immigrant who fled her native Iraq in 2001, Rezoqi first lived in Colombia and Ecuador, learning Spanish as her third language before she came to San Diego.  At the podium, Rezoqi said, “How is it possible I stand here today, speaking to you in my fourth language?”

SUDANESE CENTER HOSTS FUNDRAISING EVENT SATURDAY

 

 

May 7, 2010 (San Diego) – San Diego’s Southern Sudanese Community Center invites the public to a benefit event on Saturday, May 8 at 4 p.m. Sample Sudanese foods, enjoy live music, and help support the center’s many programs to assist newly-arrived immigrants and refugees from the Sudan. 

 

MICHELLE OBAMA VISITS FARM; MOST FARMERS NOT INVITED

By Chris Morrow, freelance journalist/CNN iReporter
April 14, 2010 (City Heights) --Residents of City Heights who spend hours daily tending the garden Michelle Obama visited today wished they had been part of the moment.
Hundreds of guests attended to meet the First Lady as she toured the New Roots Community Farm, but only three of the community growers were invited as she walked through their garden.

Many of the growers watched in their homes across the street. It was a time of happiness to have the First Lady visit the farm and also a time of sadness to not be included.

REFUGEES FROM BURMA AND BHUTAN FIND NEW HOMES IN EAST SAN DIEGO REGION

By Miriam Raftery

March 28, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Hilda Moreo, 31, spent 24 years living in refugee camps on the border between Burma and Thailand. Today, she lives in a two-bedroom apartment in City Heights with her husband, her 10-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter, and her mother.

 

Born in Thailand to parents from Burma, Moreo recalls hardships and fear growing up. “The government in Burma, they want to control all the people who live there,” she said softly. “They kill the little kids and the pregnant women. Sometimes they ask the old men, pregnant women to carry heavy things.” Women were often raped, she revealed.

IRAQI CHRISTIANS SHARE STORIES OF THEIR HOMELAND AND DREAMS FOR A NEW BABYLON IN EAST COUNTY

 CHALDEANS & ASSYRIANS COMMEMMORATE 1600-YEAR-OLD SYNOD

 

 By Miriam Raftery

 

January 22, 2010 (El Cajon) – “We look forward to establishing a New Babylon. This is something many of us have dreamed of,” Bishop Bawai Soro, a Chaldean Christian from Iraq, told East County Magazine in an exclusive interview.

 

Soro is among an estimated 65,000 to 70,000 Iraqi Christians now living in the western U.S., of whom most are in East County. He provided insights into the plight of persecuted Christians in Iraq, the struggles faced by thousands of local Iraq War refugees, the rich heritage of their ancient culture, and his hopes for the future of his people. 

 

He spoke with us at the Catholic Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle in El Cajon, where Chaldean and Assyrian bishops led a symposium January 7-9 to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of the Synod of Mar Isaac in 401 AD.

SUMMIT SEEKS HELP FOR GROWING REFUGEE POPULATION IN EAST COUNTY

Nearly 85% of local refugees are from war-torn Iraq, straining resources on schools and social services; local leaders call for major changes in treatment of refugees

 

"We can create a national model," -- Sunny Cooke, president, Grossmont College

 

November 12, 2009 (El Cajon) – Impacts of the Iraq War are hitting home in East County, where so many Iraqi refugees have settled that El Cajon's mayor has dubbed a section of his community "Little Baghdad."  From Oct. 1, 2008 to October 1, 2009, the U.S. admitted almost 75,000 refugees—including 18,333 from Iraq.*  Since October 2008, San Diego has been taking in 400 refugee families a month.  Nearly 85% are from Iraq.  Almost 75% of all area refugees have settled in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District (GCCCD), straining resources beyond capacity in social services, education, and healthcare.

 

“Social Services predicts that 200 to 300 new families will be entering East County each month for the next two or three years,” Mike Lewis, PhD, assistant superintendent of education for the Grossmont Union High School District said at a November 6 summit at Cuyamaca College titled Spotlight on Refugee Education and Employment.  Some have spent weeks or even years in refugee camps.  Many don’t speak English and have not been able to receive an education.  Many refugees are also physically maimed by war or suffer post-traumatic stress.  Often they receive misinformation and find steep barriers to getting the help that they need.

LOCAL GROUP HELPS WOMEN IN SUDAN: MARCH 29 WALK FOR DARFUR PLANNED HERE

By Miriam Raftery

March 26, 2009 (San Diego)--Horrified to learn that women in Darfur were being attacked by soldiers when they would go out to gather wood for cooking, San Diego-based Voices of Women started raising funds to send solar-powered stoves to the women of Darfur.

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