By Ana Gomez Salcido
The Chicano Federation of San Diego County will celebrate 47 years of community engagement and service today, Friday, May 6 with its annual Unity Luncheon hosted at Downtown’s Wyndham San Diego Bayside.
Established in 1969, the Chicano Federation of San Diego County started as a social movement against discrimination to the Chicano community in San Diego, but has evolved to a service organization providing aid to all families in San Diego County, regardless of their background.
President and CEO of Chicano Federation for over 20 years, Raymond Uzeta, said the Unity Luncheon is the organization’s most important fundraising event of the year, so organizers are expecting a successful event.
There will be over 400 people in attendance at the luncheon, gathering a great array of elected officials from all over San Diego County such as Mayors, City Council Members, Supervising Members and State Legislators.
Sponsorship of this event helps support the Chicano Federation’s preschool, Head Start, and child nutrition programs.
“There are approximately 5,000 children in San Diego, Orange, and Riverside Counties that benefit each day from the child nutrition program,” said Uzeta to La Prensa San Diego. “[The child nutrition program] consists in giving healthy meals and snacks to increase children’s consumption of healthy foods.”
The nutrition program is funded by the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and also sponsors licensed child care providers to furnish them with all the materials needed to participate in the program.
Uzeta said there are 850 daycare facilities already enrolled in their child nutrition program in the region.
Chicano Federation also helps Latino women become certified to have their own daycare. There are more than 4,000 women that have received the training needed to open their own daycare through Chicano Federation.
“We are a very efficient organization. We don’t have a lot of administrative overhead,” said Uzeta.
“96 percent of every dollar that comes here goes directly to services for our community, which is a phenomenal rate. Other non-profit organizations spend at least 25 percent on administrative costs,” Uzeta continued.
Each year, the Unity Luncheon has a selected keynote speaker based on a selected topic. This Friday, Walter Lam, Founder and President of Alliance for African Assistance, will speak about the struggles that refugees face.
“Given what is going on in the world, and the intense wars going on in the Middle East, the living conditions that refugees face are topics that have recently emerged,” said Uzeta.
“All of a sudden, Europe is dealing with a number of refugees that no one has ever dealt with before. So while we read about the flight of these people, we don’t understand what it really means. [That is why] we decided to have a speaker who is able to speak about the refugee experience. What causes [the displacement of people]? What do people go through being a refugee? What challenges and suffering do refugees go through? How do you make it in that environment?,” Uzeta added.
“We asked Walter to be our guest speaker specifically because he himself was a refugee. He knows what refugees go through and his organization based in City Heights provides services to refugees living in San Diego,” Uzeta further explained.
Walter Lam was born and raised in northern Uganda. After his high school graduation, he fled political persecution to Kenya and attended Egerton University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering. Walter later returned to Uganda in 1981, and worked with the government in various management positions. In 1986, he again fled political persecution to Kenya. By the end of the year, Lam found himself in San Diego.
Upon his arrival to the United States, Lam recognized that there were no programs that addressed the needs of African refugees arriving in San Diego. In 1989, Lam founded the Alliance for African Assistance with the purpose of helping fellow refugees from Africa.
For the second year, NBC San Diego TV reporter, Catherine Garcia will be master of ceremonies at the luncheon.