Local group helps student refugees

Nova Spero held a holiday event for about 50 refugee students.
(Copyright of David John)

Local “refugee empowerment program” Nova Spero distributed gifts to 50 refugee students and held other holiday activities during a recent event.

“We just wanted to find a way to have some fun with the kids while teaching them about some American traditions, such as Christmas,” said David John, a junior at Canyon Crest Academy and founding member of Nova Spero, along with his brother.

Volunteers from CCA, Torrey Pines High School and Santa Fe Christian Schools all helped wrap gifts for the refugee students.

“It was really a joy to watch these kids get these presents and feel so happy for something that we might take for granted in American society,” David said.

Volunteers for Nova Spero have been working with refugee students in City Heights for almost four years. The students come from a wide array of backgrounds, David said, and speak languages including Swahili, Pashto, Maay Maay, Farsi, Spanish and Arabic. They come from countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Afghanistan, Sudan and Iran.

The group meets in person on Saturdays at the Colina Del Sol Rec Center in City Heights. It has grown to include about 75 volunteers who help run the programming for refugee students. David said the programming helps bridge the learning gap that many of these students have had to endure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Nova Spero’s website, David was inspired to start the organization in part by an outreach trip to the Tohono O’Odham Nation. His brother also inspired his role in the group.

“I was observing what my brother was doing under his leadership, and I really developed this passion for helping these immigrant children who are right in our backyard,” David said.

He added that Nova Spero wants to continue expanding to serve more refugee students, including those who have been coming in from Ukraine over the last year because of the Russian invasion.

“Another project I’m currently working on is getting these refugee children into sports,” David said. “Organized sports teams for these refugee children would be huge because they’d learn skills like team building and community.”

He added, “We want to touch as many lives of refugee kids as we can. We just really want to see this grow into a big thing where we are impacting big, large communities.”

For more information visit novaspero.org, nova.spero on Instagram or email novaspero2021@gmail.com.