San Diego serves as home to one of the largest African refugee populations in the country, and is composed of a rich mixture of Africans who bring knowledge and culture from a vast continent. The Ethiopian Community Service Center, located on Adams Avenue in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, is one of the many cultural and educational contributors to the city.
The ECS was built on a foundation of Ethiopians who have migrated to the United States for various reasons, but come together under a common goal. ECS places strong emphasis on the passing of a relative or friend, and was drawn together in these times of need. “We’ve had communities in the past, but we decided to get together and have these discussions amongst people in the community who are really passionate about this issue,” said founding member and Advisory board, Ben Seifu.
ECS is an offi cial nonprofi t 501c3 comprised of a board of elected offi cials as well as members at large. “They’ve done an amazing job thus far,” he added.
Through social media, fl iers in Amharic and English that are posted in mosques, churches, taxi stands, airports and various venues in the city, ECS is able to stretch its reach to the Ethiopian community. Though there is a high concentration who live in the City Heights area, Ethiopians are widespread in San Diego county. “So far it has been very successful. We always have people coming in asking for services. We’ve been very lucky in both areas in those who need help and those who want to volunteer to help,” said Secretary of ECS, Salem Berhanu.
ECS offers a variety of free services to the public. “We are here for the Ethiopian community in San Diego, whether they are Ethiopian Americans, or those just arriving,” said Berhanu. Some services offered are immigration services, translation, education and child care, as well as referrals from other organizations and social workers. Individuals seeking assistance from ECS can also look forward to education on business opportunities in entrepreneurship as well as other workshops. Another issue of great importance is assimilation – an area of expertise within ECS – where great support and advice is provided.
Through each and every service offered by ECS, they strive to reach their main goal of simply bringing the community together. “We want to be the voice for those who don’t have a voice,” offered Berhanu. “People appreciate the fact that we’re here; even if they may not need a service, just knowing that we are here makes a difference,” she added.
Additionally, ECS has fostered several partnerships with other organizations and communities including their newest partnership with CalWorks Welfare to Work program. Berhanu cited several businesses, mosques and churches who have been very supportive to ECS.
“What we’re trying to do ultimately is connect with other communities, so we can all get together and forge a strong partnership,” said Seifu. The East African community is extremely large in San Diego; therefore, ECS believes in working together to become successful citizens. “If we get together and form a coalition, then we can get some of the issues up to the City level,” he added.
“One thing you realize when you work with different communities, the African American community, or the Somalian community or any community is that we’re all saying the same thing. And if we’re saying the same thing, then why don’t we come together as one voice. The more people you have supporting you, the more your voice will be heard,” expressed Berhanu.
ECS looks forward to more events in the future, in working to foster a coalition with other groups in San Diego. The executive board meets weekly and members and the public are invited to general membership meetings. Those seeking membership can choose from an individual plan of $5 per month or a family plan of $10 per month. ECS welcomes the San Diego community and looks forward to uplifting Ethiopians throughout the city. ECS is located at 3200 Adams Ave. Suite #201, San Diego, CA 92116. For more information, support and to volunteer please visit www.ecssd.org, call (619) 283-2258, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. ECS can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EthiopianCommunityServiceInSanDiego.
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