Chaldean Middle-Eastern Social Services – Exploring New Community Partnerships

Chaldean-Middle Eastern Social Services (CMSS) was founded in 2005 in San Diego, California by Dr. Zina Asmer-Salem (CEO) & Besma Coda (COO) and by a grass-roots group of community residents in San Diego County concerned with the plight of Iraqi and Middle Eastern refugees and the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services available to them. CMSS’s mission is to “preserve, strengthen, support, and enhance the quality of life and self-sufficiency of the Chaldean and Arab Americans/Middle Easterners in San Diego County who are in need of assistance by providing leadership, advocacy, education, assimilation, planning and delivery of multiple services. CMSS strives to preserve, strengthen and support the quality of life for all families and individuals within our community as well as serving their diverse needs by providing resources with emphasis on assisting and acculturating new immigrants to become productive citizens.”

During its early years, CMSS initially began predominately as a mental health service provider. Since then, CMSS has expanded their work and services and in 20010 received a grant from Office of Refugee Resettlement to launch an Ethnic Community Self-Help program. The program provides a multitude of social services that include culture orientation trainings, translation, and assistance with forms to Iraqi refugees in San Diego. CMSS is working to expand its services to the community through new partnerships and programming.

New Partnerships, Expanded Services

In April of this year, CMSS partnered with San Diego Future Foundation to bring discounted computers and laptops to clients of CMSS. Nawal Alkatib, Ethnic Community Self Help Director at CMSS says that the benefits of this partnership “will help our refugees assimilate with the American community by enhancing their technological skills. It also helps families find jobs, continue education, connect with relatives, and assist their children as they begin school”.

In May, the organization also partnered with Harvest C.R.O.P.S (Community Residents Offering Produce Seasonally) to encourage CMSS volunteers and refugees to explore the San Diego agricultural community. Through the Harvests C.R.O.P. program, CMSS volunteers pick up local produce and distribute it to CMSS clients and the local community. This partnership provides CMSS volunteers and clients the opportunity to participate in the San Diego community and benefit through the distribution of local produce.

It is CMSS’s hope that these partnerships will encourage expansion of their Ethnic Community Self-Help program and organization’s services in general to provide services that respond to the needs refugees are faced with upon arrival to the United States.