City Heights is home to immigrants from all corners of the globe, including a large Somali population from East Africa. Many of these immigrant families not only have to adjust to a new home and a new society, they also face unique generational challenges; while the parents struggle to understand the new language, their children have adapted to their new environment. Many of the parents are concerned about the cultural gap growing between them and their children. They also worry about their children failing to achieve in school.
That’s why City Heights Hope was formed in the summer of 2009, through a grant from the California Endowment, with the goal of becoming a voice for Somali-speaking women in San Diego. The mothers in the group voiced concerns about their children becoming juvenile delinquents and ending up in the justice system.
The first steps City Heights Hope took was to bring together a group of young people within the Somali community who were attending college and have them discuss the challenges they faced while growing up. With insight from young people who have gone through some of the same challenges faced by today’s youths, a plan was formed to bring about an organization that would bridge the gap between the young and old.
As a young person myself, I feel that connecting youths to their lost culture, language, history, and religion would help them develop a sense of who they are and what they can become.
One of the challenges faced by the community is a lack of clear communication between schools and parents. Most parents don’t speak English. The disconnect grows as their children become full-fledged Americans and forget their native tongue and thus lose their only means of effectively communicating with the older generation.
The youths who tend to get into trouble are often not grounded, meaning they lack a strong sense of identity, a set of values, and a sense of direction. To curb this trend, the City Heights Hope group proposed a pilot summer program that’s focused on connecting East African youths to their roots by providing them with classes on Somalia’s history, culture, poetry, literature and religion.
We hope the youths in the pilot program will show an increased sense of responsibility develop a clear sense of direction, and embrace a set of values consistent with their culture. We also hope they will learn to eat healthier and get more physical exercise. Our goal is to eventually provide the youths with the tools needed to develop strong ties to their community and become leaders.
TAGLINE: Abdishakur Osman is a Somali immigrant and project coordinator for the City Heights Hope summer program. He graduated from Crawford High School and currently attends San Diego City College majoring in mechanical engineering.