United Women of East Africa


United Women of East Africa (UWEAST) strives to be the force for culturally competent health services, education, and advocacy for the well-being of the East African community. UWEAST’s vision is for East African women to collaboratively shape the impact on the health, education, economic and overall well-being of their families.
UWEAST is grateful for the long-standing partnership of Southwest Airlines. Kayla Valencia, together with predecessors Kelly Knox and Lidia S. Martinez continue to serve as valuable advisors, partners, and allies for the UWEAST team. The UWEAST leadership team treasures the collegiality of other Southwest Airline partners in the San Diego community, all working for the greater good.

Sahra Abdi, Executive Director, United Women of East Africa, together with Abraham Tessema, Refugee Assistance Center and Chuoi Tut, Southern Sudanese Community Center are proud to lead the establishment of the Salaam Youth and Community Center, a collaborative space operated by three ethnic community-based organizations that serve African populations. The Center will provide refugees with a safe, convenient, centrally located haven to access culturally appropriate and coordinated services and resources that help them assimilate in the San Diego community and feel a sense of belonging.

The new Salaam Youth and Community Center is part of City Heights Community Development Corporation and their partners at Wakeland Housing and Development’s “Cuatro at City Heights,” which will provide affordable housing and mixed-use community.

“It is truly remarkable to witness the establishment of the Salaam Youth and Community Center,” said Sahra Abdi, Executive Director of UWEAST. “This model does not just benefit the organizations involved; it extends its impact to community members, supporters, and funders, reaching far beyond what we initially envisioned. It is a testament to the unity in serving our communities and lays the foundation for a legacy for generations to come.”

UWEAST has recently been selected to receive a $2 million gift as an awardee of the Yield Giving Open Call. The Yield Giving Open Call – managed by Lever for Change – focused on elevating organizations working with people and in places experiencing the greatest need in the United States. A portion of this historic donation, together with other trusted partners, allows UWEAST to expand offerings and help establish this beacon of hope and safety.

With a foundation of trust, a proven history of collaboration, and an ambitious vision, the Salaam Youth and Community Center is poised to become a model for successful partnerships in the future. The collaborative continues to build a community of champions, allies and supporters needed to meet the $6.5M goal to bring this vision to fruition.

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Esteban Villanueva