African refuges share their culture at reception in La Jolla

Some members of the audience dress in traditional garb from their countries. in this photo are Maha hussein (left) in an Alindi from Somalia and Fatima Abdelvahman in a Toob from the Sudan.
Some members of the audience dress in traditional garb from their countries. in this photo are Maha hussein (left) in an Alindi from Somalia and Fatima Abdelvahman in a Toob from the Sudan.

By Ashley Mackin

The Alliance for African Assistance hosted the 12th annual World Refugee Day of San Diego on June 20 at the La Jolla Presbyterian Church. The event honored refugees from 10 different countries with a breakfast, stories, performances and a speech from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

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Alliance for African Assistance President Walter Lam and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

“We are here honoring refugees because we understand their sacrifice, their incredible resilience and efforts to make homes wherever they end up, and to say that we are going to welcome refugees, not only in this country, but in this city,” Filner said.

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Becky Odyak and John Bryan give the Rising Star award to Anna Lalim (right), who came to the United States from Uganda and will be attending Cal State San Marcos to study biology.

“They want to be productive members of our community and that’s good for all of us. We are stronger because of our diversity. We are stronger when we have contributions from other cultures. We are stronger when we have talents from other cultures,” he added, acknowledging the difficulty in transitioning to a new country with new customs. “We have to make that transition as smooth, as easy, and as dignified as possible. I am committed to doing that as mayor.”

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Ambassador of the Year Tracy Skaddam accepts her award, holding back tears, while Walter Lam looks on.

Filner said San Diego should be more sensitive to the needs of refugees and their families when it comes to employment, education and housing. “We are all in this together. Yes, we are a city, but we have responsibilities as human beings to those who are suffering. If we can do anything about it, we should.”

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Tina Mobarrez (right) accepts the Volunteer of the year award from Kayla Roberts and John Bryan.

Refugee of the Year Ibrahim Mohammed told his story, which started in Iraq. He said he knew he and his family were not safe after receiving death threats. “I wasn’t safe at home and I wasn’t safe at work,” he said. At one point, someone left an envelope at his house with a bullet in it and a note reading, “This bullet cost me 10-cents, do you think your life is worth that much?”

Mohammed and his family then moved to Syria, eventually making it to the United States. He is now studying to become a dentist and hopes to join Doctors Without Borders.

For more information about the Alliance for African Assistance, visit

alliance-for-africa.org

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Some members of the audience dress in traditional garb from their countries. in this photo are Maha hussein (left) in an Alindi from Somalia and Fatima Abdelvahman in a Toob from the Sudan.
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This outfit from Nepal is typically worn at weddings.
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Members of the Myanmar Community Church perform a traditional Burmese dance.
   
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