NewsPositively San Diego


Conversation with strangers leads to global community service

Posted at 8:49 AM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 11:49:05-04

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) — Dr. Rashda Roshdy leads Amna Sanctuary, a nonprofit based out of San Diego, helping refugees from different parts of the globe.

"When we serve refugees, we're serving the community as a whole. You're serving a key demographic, and future Americans," Dr. Roshdy described.

The year-old nonprofit provides essential resources like meals, shelter, clothing, and most importantly and often underestimated English classes. It’s a benefit Dr. Roshdy understands first-hand as a refugee herself.

"When I came to the U.S., I hardly spoke English. I had to learn and navigate American culture. I was born in Egypt, so I came from a strong middle-eastern Muslim background," said Dr. Roshdy.

Breaking the language barrier is why Dr. Roshdy began Amna Sanctuary in the first place.

"I was in an Arabic grocery store in El Cajon, and I overheard a conversation between two Syrian refugees, and they lived in an apartment building with posters posted outside their door," she recalled.

The duo couldn't read the sign, so Dr. Roshdy helped them. Soon, she realized many refugees were left in the dark amid the pandemic as crucial resources shifted online and many were without computers.

"When you have everything online, and part of our demographic doesn't have access, this isn't something I couldn't stand idle and not do anything about,” she told ABC 10News.

It wasn't that single encounter that had the wheels turning, either. Dr. Rosdhy vividly recalls an assignment her San Diego State University professor gave during her doctoral program.

"He had this exercise to write your own eulogy or acceptance speech for an award. That small, tiny leadership exercise made me think, 'What do I want to be remembered for?' or 'What legacy do I want to leave'?" said Dr. Roshdy.

She decided her legacy will be that of helping refugees adjust and succeed in their new home. A role she believes she was meant to take on.

"I think I was driven to the place where I was needed most, and I accept my destiny. I'm happiest when I'm useful and helpful to others. It's something I learned in leadership courses to become a servant leader, and I feel it spoke to my background,” Dr. Roshdy said.

Amna Sanctuary accepts donations and volunteers year-round. For more information, visit