The San Diego Refugee Community Coalition (SDRCC) launched the Parks Adventures for Refugee Communities (PARC) program with CA States Park and Parks California on January 1st, 2023. Funded by the California Natural Resource Agency, PARC aims to provide enriching experiences in the great outdoors with a mission to increase access to San Diego’s natural resources for children and youth from refugee communities.

The PARC program involves the collaboration of nine SDRCC Ethnic Community Based Organizations (ECBOs), each playing a crucial role in the program’s implementation. These ECBOs have appointed dedicated “Young Leaders” (YL) who will serve as representatives of their respective organizations. These young leaders, with their enthusiasm and commitment, will be instrumental in organizing and coordinating field trips to the State Parks for over 300 refugee children and youth aged 8-17 years old. These young leaders up until now have completed all pre-site visits some have already completed their own field trips with their youth. 

 Below is a list of the CA State Parks in the Colorado Desert District and the San Diego Coast District to be visited during this program: 

  1. Anza Borrego Desert State Park
  2. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
  3. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
  4. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
  5. South Cardiff State Beach
  6. Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

The PARC program offers an exciting opportunity for children and youth from refugee communities to explore the breathtaking beauty of California’s State Parks. These natural wonders provide a diverse range of landscapes, including coastal areas, forests, deserts, and mountains. By venturing into these parks, the young participants will not only immerse themselves in the wonders of nature but also develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the environment. 

As the program manager for the PARCs program, I had the opportunity to meet and eventually work with the young leaders who were selected to represent their respective ECBOs. Their vibrant energy and dedication to creating positive change within their communities were evident from the moment we connected. We discussed the program’s goals and the importance of connecting children and youth from refugee communities with nature. 

During pre-site visits to the six California State Parks, the young leaders demonstrated a deep sense of curiosity and excitement. Exploring the parks alongside them, I witnessed their awe and wonder as they encountered the diverse ecosystems and breathtaking landscapes. They expressed their appreciation for being able to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature.

On May 27, 2023, an SDRCC ECBO named Karen Organization of San Diego (KOSD) embarked on an exciting field trip to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego. Knowledgeable park rangers and expert guides provided interactive educational sessions, sharing insights into the reserve’s ecosystems. The children and youth learned about the significance of preserving these natural habitats for future generations. Several participants expressed their thoughts on the field trip saying not only have they never been to this park, but also have never had a guided tour from a park ranger, and that made them feel so special and happy. This field trip was a resounding success; the children gained knowledge of the wellness and learning benefits of connecting to nature, leaving them with a meaningful and lasting impression of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. 

Through immersive experiences in nature and engaging educational activities, this program continues to fulfill its mission of increasing San Diego’s natural resources and instilling environmental stewardship among the younger refugee generation. For more information on the PARC’s program please email the program manager: Rahil Mounira Hernandez:

Rahil Mounira Hernandez, MPH
SDRCC Youth Programs Manager