Santa Fe Christian Schools grad helps local refugee families

Daniel John's nonprofit, Nova Spero, assists local refugee families.

After a French teacher instilled a passion for helping refugees in City Heights, a Santa Fe Christian Schools graduate started his own initiative to provide assistance and raise awareness.

Daniel John started a nonprofit group called Nova Spero with a friend, Andrew Chiang, to assist a refugee community in City Heights. The two also authored a book, “Leo’s New Hope,” to draw attention to the challenges refugees face in their new homes.

The book’s main character, Leo, relocates to suburban San Diego from a refugee camp in Africa. It’s based on the experiences and interactions both authors have had with refugee children. The artwork in the book was donated by local artists.

“We talk about his life, the sort of things that happened there, how he got there and then how he transitioned into the U.S. and met people who helped him out,” John said. “We’re hoping that this will not only raise awareness but also encourage people to become involved with the refugee community.”

Many of the challenges these refugee families face include food insecurity and low wages, said John, who lives in Carmel Valley.

“Poverty is right here in the U.S.,” he added. “People don’t really realize that.”

He also referred to research that showed approximately half of Fortune 500 companies were started by American immigrants or their children, demonstrating their potential when they have access to the resources they need.

“They really benefit our society and I think it’s important that we listen to them more and we do more to help them,” John said.

But they face many challenges when they arrive in the U.S., sometimes for even relatively simple tasks. John said when his father came to America from India several decades ago, he struggled to get a credit card.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, John and others involved with his nonprofit began putting together care packages with food that they’ve been delivering to the City Heights refugee families they serve.

“Just with the chaos and everything going around, I think a lot of people were sort of forgetting to continue working with these groups,” John said.

John will be a freshman at UC San Diego, where he plans to study bioengineering and political science. He is also a National Merit Commended Scholar, winner of the Princeton Prize on Race Relations, and he plays the saxophone and piano.

John and Chiang’s book is available on Amazon. For more information about his nonprofit, visit