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SDG&E annual grant program to help local nonprofits, refugee advocates

United Women of East Africa is one of the nonprofits to receive $1M. Funds will go toward food and housing assistance for low-income refugee families.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego-based nonprofit United Women of East Africa was gifted $1 million by San Diego Gas & Electric as part of its Community Assistance Fund, an initiative geared toward aiding food security and housing stability. SDG&E annually donates $10 million as part of the program and five nonprofits received $1 million respectively. 

As CBS 8 continues Working For Our Community, we decided to visit United Women of East Africa to see how neighbors have benefitted from services provided during a weekly coalition meeting the nonprofit hosts. San Diego Refugees Communities Coalition is a collective of ethnic-community based organizations that work to serve low-income refugee families.

Jama Mohamed is one of the coalition members and is a refugee from Somalia. He fled at the age of three. 

"It made me who I am and that is to care about people," he said. "I remember when everything spiraled out of control and there was violence and all of these different things happening," Mohamed added.

His family lived at a refugee camp in Kenya for six years, before getting sponsored to come to the U.S. He's now a graduate student, and is on the path to become a licensed clinician in marriage and family therapy. Mohamed helps up to 300 refugees a month as a mental health specialist. 

"We are working hard and diligently to make sure these people feel supported. There's been a large influx of people coming in. It's been a challenge for all of us, it has been quite an experience," he said.

Director of the coalition Amarjit Dass said they have helped thousands since 2019.

"They've witnessed killings, dead bodies, bombings - imagine experiencing that every day - you wouldn't want to stay," she said.

In 2021, San Diego saw more refugees from Afghanistan following the withdrawal of American troops. San Diego has also recently seen a surge of Ukrainian refugees. The Refugees Coalition knows their work can be controversial. They say education is key.

"It's been a problem for quite some time, due to stigma," Mohamed said.

Dass said immigrants and refugees are an integral part of a society.

"Every country almost, started with immigrants - immigrants and refugees have always made sure that these countries are thriving economically, socially and more," Dass said.

In addition to providing tutoring, recreational activities and mentorship, this $1 million grant from SDG&E will go toward their community health initiative to help guide refugees toward food and housing assistance.

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