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San Diego doctor helping Afghan refugees after personal experience

Pha Le
Posted at 4:51 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-29 21:36:12-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A San Diego man is using life experiences learned as a child to give back to others like him today.

Pha Le was a child in Vietnam in the 1970s. In 1982, part of his family was able to escape the war-torn region, first going to Indonesia for a year then making it to the United States by 1983.

He said when they first arrived in the U.S., life was hard. His parents initially struggled to make ends meet and after years of hard work, were able to get up on their feet.

“Life was actually very difficult,” said Pha, talking about their initial move to the U.S. “It taught me how difficult it is to be a refugee in this country. It is a country of plenty with lots of opportunities and I’m forever grateful but whatever I can do to help mitigate some of those challenges, I want to do that now.”

Pha said he’s now dedicated his life to giving back and helping so that others like him do not have to struggle.

One of the ways he’s giving back now is by helping with a grassroots group called Helping El Cajon Refugees (HECR). HECR has helped about 130 Afghan families since Sept. 1, 2021, supplying them with ready-to-go homes.

“We’re coming into empty apartments and we’re furnishing it with everything the family needs to start a fresh life successfully,” said Pha.

He said he relates to the families he’s helping because he was once in their shoes.

“I see myself in them completely, the look in their eyes, the look in their children's eyes, the lack of language, the lack of resources.”

That connection motivates him to help even more, hoping to give them the resources that his family did not receive.

“It really warms my heart because they don’t have to struggle the way that I did,” said Pha.

In addition to helping house refugees, Pha also works as an ER doctor, plus volunteers to bring a health clinic to the homeless at Father Joe’s Village. He's working on launching his own mobile clinic with Vituity Cares Foundation. He also volunteers for Honor Flight San Diego and the USS Midway.