In 2016 and 2017, San Diego County received the largest number of Syrian refugees; more than any other county in the United States. There are currently 250 Syrian families living and working in this area. The majority of families have been resettled in El Cajon, a city in eastern San Diego County. Others live in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. 

Many of these families continue to suffer post-traumatic stress (PTSD) from both fleeing war in their homeland and being totally unprepared for life in a new country with a different language, culture, history, religious traditions, and legal system. The four local resettlement agencies, contracted with the U.S. State Department, were not adequately prepared for this sudden influx. Instead of being placed in furnished apartments as prescribed in the contract, many families were housed in crowded hotel rooms for weeks and months, often unattended to, escalating their anxieties.

Symptoms of trauma, often from multiple experiences, include self-imposed isolation, depression, and anxiety. These unresolved, painful emotions can manifest in their daily lives through unhealthy family dynamics, the inability to provide basic parenting and caregiving for their children, the failure to learn simple conversational English, difficulty getting and maintaining even entry-level jobs for the adults, and the children doing poorly in school.

Our experiences in helping these families and a University of San Diego report* reveal that the staff of many of the community service organizations used by the newcomers are not properly trained or prepared to serve refugees from the Middle East who have undergone significant trauma. This includes the schools the children attend and the medical community, including counseling and mental health services.


– To see wellbeing achieved as the norm among Syrian newcomers - a state of being comfortable, happy, healthy, secure, safe, and prosperous. 

Acculturation – To see these families, through a process of social, psychological, and cultural change, learn to keep aspects of their own culture while adapting to the prevailing culture of a different society.

Community – To encourage and strengthen families, and improve the sensitivity and responsiveness of important available resources to the needs of the Syrian community.

Our Inside World  - To gently and sensitively consider  thoughts, memories, and feelings that could be impacting their ability to achieve wellbeing and to thrive in their new homeland. Through a trauma informed approach, exploring this concept helps our Syrian neighbors find healing and rebuild a sense of control and empowerment that has been lost through their experiences of being forcibly displaced from their homes. 


Peer-to-Peer Mentoring  - Trained facilitators meet with Syrian men and women to introduce the purpose and approach of our initiative and invite them to explore the core concepts together in a peer-to-peer mentoring relationship.  

Small Groups - After these initial peer-to-peer meetings, the facilitators encourage these men and women to invite friends who would be interested in learning these core concepts through stories, discussions, and shared activities (e.g. art, hiking, cooking, etc) in gender-specific groups. A key focus is to create and maintain a safe and trusting space for all participants. 

Cultural Events and Forums - All group members, including facilitators, host leaders, and small group participants, will be invited to enjoy periodic cultural and social events. At these events, local community resources will be presented. These events will also provide the opportunity for further discussion and processing of the core concepts while providing cultural learning for both Syrian and American participants.

1) To see Syrian newcomers holistically experience wellbeing and to thrive in their new life in America.
2) To see local community services and resources successfully supporting this process.**

We are launching November, 2019, and the project will run through the end of October 2020.

Our budget for complete implementation for one year is $120,000.00.

David Schupack, Project Director

Rebecca DeBreau, Program Manager

Dan Bender, Community Liaison

Dr James Witty, Advisor

Facilitator Coordinator - CURRENTLY SEEKING

*The needs we are addressing have not only been confirmed from our own staff’s years of experiences in working directly with these refugee families but also with further research documented in a recent postgraduate University of San Diego research project Social Support Network for Syrian Refugees with Post-Migration Stressors Report* (USD report). We are using this report as the guideline and framework for our program as well as a University of New Mexico Refugee Wellbeing Study* (2016).

**In order to measure the success of this program, a mechanism in the form of before and after surveys will be used. With the help of the USD report, these surveys will be developed so particular metrics can be appropriately measured.

View extended video here.

Want more information about this specific initiative? Contact us here!

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$6000 towards $120,000 Goal

WE ARE WORKING TO RAISE $120,000 TO LAUNCh AND MAINTAIN THIS INITIATIVE. Would you please consider donating?