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In City Heights, this man, Ahmed Sahid …

Ahmed Sahid, CEO of Somali Family Service

… is a big deal. Why?

Start with why he’s in San Diego.

San Diego has the 2nd largest Somali population in the United States.

Second to Minnesota. Why San Diego? Seems like an expensive place to put refugees.

It’s because of family. The most important connection a newcomer can have is to family in the area who can help.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

We explained what happened last year:

“The cornerstone of immigration, and especially for refugees, is family unity,” said Bob Montgomery, executive director of the International Rescue Committee program in San Diego.

When agencies like his work with government officials to place refugees, the presence of family members trumps the cost of living in other host cities. A place to live and a job are important, but so is a support system for people who have experienced the atrocities of war.

In 2013, for the first time since the early 1990s, the U.S. recognized Somalia’s government. And now, some are thinking about going home.

But still, why San Diego in the first place?

It goes back to Vietnam.

Here’s why City Heights is such a hub for refugees in 2 minutes from San Diego Explained:

Basically, the military brought many Vietnamese refugees to military bases after the war, including Camp Pendleton. The infrastructure to support them has lasted and provides support for future generations of the displaced from war-torn areas.

Sahid was one of those who came in the 1990s from Somalia. He formed Somali Family Service.

Arriving in a place like San Diego from Somalia can be overwhelming. The language, culture and government are impenetrable. How do you get a job, find a place to live, enroll your children in school or go to a doctor?

Soon after Ahmed Sahid encountered all this, he realized others may need help connecting the dots.

Now, Somali Family Service helps thousands find doctors, fill out forms, get tutors and figure out how to thrive in San Diego.

Since 2000, Somali Family Service has worked collaboratively with community members to:

• Develop programs to address the unique needs of refugees and immigrants while promoting educational attainment and economic self-sufficiency.

• Offer services under three primary categories: health and well-being programs, youth leadership development, and economic development.

They formed the Taxan, a newsletter just for the Somali community. Check it out:

Every year, they bring together thousands at a health fair.

Everything starts with good health.

Sahid is getting a national profile.

But what he really loves is working with people one-on-one in City Heights.

What you can do:

Somali Family Service is dedicated to providing all services to clients for free.

Somali Family Service actively fosters and maintains collaborative partnerships to leverage community resources thereby strengthening services and providing more opportunities for clients. Frequently, clients face significant transportation challenges, and Somali Family Service is actively seeking monetary donations to purchase a van. You can help by donating now.

Additionally, Somali Family Service is recruiting volunteers to participate in their weekly tutoring program for refugee and immigrant youth.

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