Ahmed Sahid, President/CEO of Somali Family Service (SFS), was recognized at the 12th Annual Local Heroes Awards sponsored by KPBS and Union Bank. Ahmed Sahid and Randy Jones from the Office of the US Attorney received awards for Black History month at an event on Nov. 16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla. Ten other leaders were also honored for Women’s History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jewish Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and American Indian Heritage Month. The event featured an awards ceremony with live music by Orchestra Nova, and a reception followed.
“I am incredibly honored to be among the heroes nominated for such important work in the San Diego community. I am proud to be part of the solution of helping the underserved community become productive members of our society,” said Ahmed Sahid.
When he began volunteering in 1990 and then in 2000 founded Somali Family Service, Sahid’s goal was to bridge a gap between the community of approximately 30,000 East Africans in San Diego and the larger community and to be a voice for the underserved. He has accomplished this by collaborating extensively with law enforcement, schools and other organizations with similar missions. With programs in leadership development, health services, economic development, youth mentorship, and a new program helping asylees with housing and other social services, Sahid has made great strides in increasing self-sufficiency, serving over 1500 families annually.
Through leadership development, Sahid helps newcomers navigate the school system and find housing, employment and other social services. This program works with the San Diego Refugee Forum and other local organizations to build capacity among the refugee population, teaching them how to advocate for themselves and improve their communication skills.
Partnering with community leaders, residents, healthcare providers and other agencies, Sahid addresses access to healthcare issues in the East African community, as well as producing the annual SFS Health Fair in Honor of World Refugee Day. SFS also gives mental and physical health trainings, home visits and social service referrals for Somali seniors.
In order to address difficulties including cultural barriers, lack of transportation, large households with limited income, and more, SFS created an economic development program to help people start businesses, find employment and learn about money management, credit and savings.
SFS has helped about 850 youth since Sahid started the East African Youth Organization (EAYO) in partnership with the San Diego Police Department years ago. EAYO focuses on preventing gangs and problems with drugs and alcohol by directing youth toward positive educational and recreational activities and increasing parent and school involvement and career opportunities.
Project Refuge brings much needed assistance to the growing San Diego East African asylee population -- who suffered for extreme violence, torture and persecution in their homelands -- by providing safe housing and a network of community services.
With language barrier challenges and the community lacking printed material, Sahid spearheaded Taxan, the only bilingual publication for the East African community in Southern California.
He meets with elected officials in San Diego and has advocated with a member of Congress and the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Washington DC on local and national issues such as human rights and integrating refugees into the larger community. Sahid has also served on numerous boards and committees with organizations and foundations such as the State Advisory Council and The San Diego Refugee Forum. Currently, in order to expand beyond the East African community, he is a Board member of The MAAC Project and the San Diego Police Department African Advisory Board.