Skip to content

Josefina Santiago: Helping Refugees Build a Brighter Future

Josefina Santiago is standing in front of a group of people who fled conflict or persecution in their countries to create better lives in the U.S. Speaking in the group’s native language, Spanish, she tells them how decades ago, her own parents arrived in this country with nothing to their names.

“Refugees are seeking a better opportunity for themselves and their children,” says Josefina, who oversees JVS SoCal’s Refugee Employment and Acculturation Services (REAS) program.

It is this kind of empathy with which she and her team handle each of the nearly 5,000 cases they’re currently facing.

Every day, new people arrive in Los Angeles County, ready to build a more stable and more peaceful life. In partnership with the LA County Department of Public and Social Services, and the federal government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, JVS SoCal leads the employment program here. The program offers essential services, like vocational assessments, basic educational support, work experience programs, and supportive services like childcare or transportation, among other services.

When newcomers arrive, it is the American Dream that motivates them to build a better future for themselves and their families. In Josefina’s case, that forethought got her and her siblings through the University of California educational system, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Chicano Studies from UCLA, and later a master’s in Curriculum Development and Teaching from Columbia University.

“My parents don’t even know how incredible that is,” says Josefina. “It wasn’t easy not knowing the culture and having to adapt.” But with her experience, she knows that accessing the right resources can make a significant difference. That’s why JVS SoCal is an active member of the Refugee Forum of Los Angeles, a collaborative of local organizations that serve and advocate for refugees. Indeed, it is connecting refugees to the right resources that we are doing today, in commemoration of World Refugee Day on June 20.

JVS SoCal is joining the “World Refugee Day: Building a Brighter Future” event taking place today at the Gloria Molina Grand Park in Downtown LA. This event is open to the public to celebrate our refugee community, but most importantly refugees can enroll for benefits, learn about resources, apply for jobs and attend workshops.

Learn about JVS SoCal and the array of programs we support to help refugees and others in need of assistance.