Many people know Kinda Arzon who lives in San Elijo Hills. As a photographer, she gets to meet a lot of people, but she also has a natural knack for getting people together and making things happen.
Kinda grew up in Chicago and moved to San Diego in 2004. She was born in Damascus, Syria where she lived until she was about 13. The last six years have laid heavy on her heart while watching the news and following the crisis in Syria. She felt compelled to do something – anything – but also felt helpless because it’s so hard to know if your help reaches the people who need it in the midst of such a massive humanitarian disaster.
After hearing that many refugees were being sent to San Diego for resettlement (more than 1000 Syrian refugees have arrived in San Diego County since May 2016), Kinda knew this was the time to step up and help. Right here in her backyard, she had the opportunity to have an impact – to directly help these families transition to their new life here in San Diego. And, she quickly learned that was not an easy task.
“Refugees are challenged with an overwhelming amount of emotions as they arrive. Not only are they forced to leave their homes and their belongings not knowing if they will ever return, but they now are entering a new place they must call home. This new home may be a place very unfamiliar to them in terms of language and customs. Furthermore, rather than having time to adjust to these changes, they are forced to quickly find a way to provide income for their homes and families not knowing who they can trust or who they can turn to for support. The government-funded resettlement agencies are doing all they can to help these families. The families receive a small amount of money to last for the first 3 months of rent, deposit and home furnishings. Due to the large number of cases, the resettlement agencies have been overwhelmed. Some refugee families are being placed in motels for weeks due to the lack of housing,” Kinda shares.
On top of that, rent prices have increased due to the high demand. And for many, it has been a challenge to find work fast enough – especially with no language and educational background.
Most of these families are coming up on their first three months in San Diego and are beginning to struggle with rent, employment and many of these families have children with special needs, which adds to the challenges in many ways.
Kinda started here in her backyard by asking her neighbors for donations. Families from throughout our community showed up at Cafe Stoked with furniture, clothing, diapers, supplies. The local news came out to cover the event and to draw attention to the cause, which brought even more people and donations from outside of San Elijo to the event. Thanks to the generosity and fast response of our community, they filled up a truck and raised about $6,000 that day.
And from there, Heart4Refugees has continued to grow in response to the needs of these families. Heart4Refugees is now an initiative under the Syrian Community Network (SCN) of San Diego, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, that partners with resettlement agencies in San Diego to help fill the gaps and educate resettlement caseworkers and local schools about Syrian culture. They deliver furniture, subsidize rent, provide clothing, food, housing items and more.
It’s amazing what a small group of people can do when they come together with a common cause. Just taking one step, leads to the next and the next. The Leichtag Foundation recently stepped in with a grant goal that if the organization could raise $50,000 by October 10, their foundation would match the funds. And, so they hustled and raised the funds within a couple weeks.
Want to help? Heart4Refugees could definitely use more volunteers. You can connect with their Facebook page to express your interest and availability. The biggest job now is distributing what they have to the various families. It’s a wonderful way to give and to really develop a better understanding of what is going on and what needs to be done to ensure a smooth transition for these families..
Visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Heart4Refugees/ to learn more about our mission and read stories and look them up on YouTube to see video documentaries they have been creating the last few weeks.
The change in administration may have a significant impact on the entire situation both locally and abroad, so please connect with Heart4Refugees and let’s do what we can to help ensure these refugees feel safe, loved and supported as they rebuild their lives.