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UPAC Volunteer: Refugee gives City Heights a big hand

Refugee gives City Heights a big hand

San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood struggles with crime and poverty and a shortage of everything from parks to doctors. But for 22-year-old resident Jhaga Mahat,the biggest challenge of living in City Heights is getting people to see it the way he does.

“When I tell people I live here, they say it’s a ghetto and there are a lot of gangs here. But for me, City Heights is not like that,” said Mahat, who came to San Diego in 2011 from a refugee camp in Nepal.  “When I got here, I saw a lot of diverse people, and I was kind of glad, because it felt like I was still at home. City Heights is more peaceful than people say, and I just want to improve the neighborhood. I want people to see the good side.”

With giving back on his mind and able hands at the ready, Mahat has become the go-to volunteer for the Union of Pan Asian Communities’ efforts to bolster the people and image of City Heights.

A nonprofit that provides health and human services to under-served ethnic populations in San Diego, UPAC popped on Mahat’s radar through the teen clubhouse sponsored by its Alliance for Community Empowerment Program.

Mahat discovered ACE shortly after he and his family moved to San Diego. He was a newly arrived freshman at Crawford High School in need of friendship and socialization. The ACE clubhouse in City Heights provided both, along with video games, volunteer opportunities and other activities designed to keep its young members away from gangs, drugs and other bad influences.

He came to ACE because he heard they had dancing and boxing video games, a big draw for a kid who spent his first 16 years living in a bamboo hut with no electricity and no trace of technology anywhere.

But Mahat ended up sticking around for the less material perks. The ACE program also emphasizes community outreach, and when Mahat helped feed the homeless for the first time, he knew he had found something special.

“I don’t know why, but after I helped feed the homeless that first day, I was very emotional,” Mahat said.

“I saw how they were living in tents, and I just appreciated so much that I live in a home now. I started to really appreciate what I have.”

Since then, Mahat has become a vital part of the ACE community-improvement team. He is a founding member of the organization’s fledgling Youth Business Enterprise program, which teaches local young people how to run a business.

The program recently opened its own printing business, and after spending hours learning how to operate the equipment needed for printing T-shirts, embroidering hats and printing on mugs and other promotional items, Mahat is teaching other Youth Business members how to do it.

Mahat has also put in many long, sweaty days helping to transform a former Vietnamese restaurant into the UPAC Neighborhood Enterprise Center, which organization members hope will become a neighborhood hub offering everything from Zumba sessions to ethnic cooking lessons.

“I don’t feel like a leader, but the other kids are curious, and I always like to help curious people,” Mahat said during an interview at the Neighborhood Enterprise Center, which will be the new home for the Youth Business program.

“I didn’t have a lot of opportunities growing up, but when I came here, I had the opportunity to go to school and do so many other things. Back in Nepal, there are people in refugee camps who don’t have the opportunities I have, and maybe they wish they could have a life like mine. So whatever they need me to do here, I will do.”

The center and its commercial kitchen opened in August, and ACE program supervisor Dante Dauz says he couldn’t have done it without Mahat’s help.

“He is always my first call,” Dauz said. “Anytime there is any community event in City Heights, he is the first one out there and the last one to leave. The other kids look up to him a lot more than he thinks. He is impacting a lot of the youth here, and he doesn’t even realize it.”

The oldest of four, Mahat was born in a refugee camp in Nepal, after his parents fled there to escape political unrest and violence in Bhutan. Life in the camp was not terrible, but it was hard. The huts were small and the camp was crowded. Every summer, people would succumb to the heat and to the fevers that came with it.

A free education was offered to children in first through 10th grade. After that, school was no longer free. In 2011, just after Mahat finished ninth grade, the family moved to San Diego. He was re-enrolled in ninth grade at Crawford High School, where neither his limited grasp of English nor his lack of a social network could dim his enthusiasm for his new country.

“When I got here, I had a hard time communicating with people, but I really liked this place,” Mahat said with a shy smile. “When I got to school, I felt welcome. I remember one teacher playing ‘Good Morning’ from ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ in the morning, and that is still my favorite song.”

After graduating in 2015, Mahat took some time off from school to work in construction. He has since taken some general education classes at San Diego City College, and he plans on taking more. He is interested in photography and design, and he is looking forward to figuring out how to do repairs on his used car.

He doesn’t know where the future will take him, but Jhaga Mahat does know one thing for sure. He wants to make things better for the community that did its best to make a refugee feel at home.

“This is what makes me happy,” he said, looking around the cavernous room he helped whip into shape. “I don’t know how to say it, but this is just my thing. I’m not good at talking or communicating with people, but helping out without saying anything, that is my strength.”

SDG&E August Message!

August 2017 Residential Messaging from SDG&E®

Article 1:  You may qualify for a discount on your SDG&E bill

SDG&E offers several Assistance Programs to help lower your monthly bill while making your home more comfortable. Read more to determine if you qualify:

  1. CARE: With the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) Program, you can save every month on your bill. Eligibility is based on current household income or participation in certain public assistance programs and the number of people living in your home. To apply call 211 or connect at com/care.
  2. Medical Baseline: The Medical Baseline Allowance Program has helped over 30,000 people – who have a qualifying medical need or medical device – to lower their energy costs. Contact us if someone in your household has:
  • A compromised immune system or life-threatening illness
  • Any condition where additional heating and air conditioning is medically necessary to sustain a person’s life
  • One of the qualifying devices listed on the application

Household income is not a factor for qualifying, but a doctor’s certification on the application is required. To apply call 1-800-411-7343 or connect at

  1. Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) Program: We’ll provide free energy-saving improvements to your apartment, condo, house or mobile home. You may receive free lighting, furnace repair, weather-stripping, attic insulation and select free appliances such as a refrigerator. Call 1-866-597-0597 or connect at com/esap to find out if you qualify. Renters need permission from their landlords to receive these free services.

Article 2: Getting your energy-saving products and rebates just got easier 

Looking for an easy way to shop for energy-efficient products and even get some cash back from your new purchase? With our enhanced SDG&E Marketplace, shopping and finding rebates is easier than ever. You can now:

  • Create a private and secure profile, and save your product searches
  • Receive price-change alerts for your favorite products
  • Apply for rebates with an easier online process

Along with these new features, SDG&E Marketplace is still the place to comparison shop and find the best price from recognized retailers, as well as explore a variety of other helpful items like appliance estimated energy savings and popularity ratings for your favorite products. We’ve also added new merchandise and product categories.

SDG&E Marketplace continues to be your one-stop-shop for energy-saving items for your home. Visit today.

Article 3: Want a smart thermostat? Don’t miss this offer. 

You can earn up to $125 when you purchase and install an eligible smart thermostat and sign up for Reduce Your Use Thermostat.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Purchase and install an approved smart thermostat
  2. Upload your purchase receipt to SDG&E’s online Marketplace, and receive a $50 rebate
  3. Enroll in Reduce Your Use Thermostat, and receive an additional $50 – $75

Visit SDG&E’s Marketplace to find a selection of eligible smart thermostats. You can compare prices, purchase directly from a variety of local retailers and have your device shipped directly to you. Learn more at


NEW: UPAC Rocks Facebook Page

Below message by:  Sandra Knickerbocker

“UPAC Rocks began with the sole purpose of spreading joy, kindness, and a sense of community through creativity and was inspired by the Santee Rocks Facebook Group.  The idea is to decorate rocks with paint, chalk, or markers and to hide them in various locations to brighten someone’s day. For longevity, rocks should be covered with a sealer.  If you find a painted rock that you can’t bear to part with, please keep it, but replace it with one of your own creations.  This is a kindness project, and kindness has no boundaries!

Group Rules:
1. Please feel free to take your rock to another town, state or country to hide and share.
2. Do not decorate rocks with glue-on accessories. These will eventually fall off and become litter and a hazard to wildlife.
3. Be sensitive to the environment and do not remove rocks from or hunt in protected habitats, and please follow all rules of the parks and trails you visit.
4. Avoid hiding in large chain stores, and be respectful of small businesses and private property.
5. Don’t hide in grass where lawn mowers roam or in other hazardous locations.
6. Keep all posts kind, and free of rants and drama, political opinions, foul language, or business advertising and all pictures family-friendly. Members who violate these standards will be deleted.
7. Above all, use common sense and remember our mission. We want to spread happiness in our community, and in no way wish to be a nuisance, distraction, or hazard.

“Rocks reflect the opinions and attitudes of the individual artists, and not those of the administration or UPAC organization.  UPAC cannot be held responsible for the actions of individual group members.”

This is meant to be fun for all ages and abilities, so get creative and get outside!  Thank you for being such an important part of this community. Peace, love and joy!

SDG&E: Energy Message & Tips for June

Make this a cool summer with a new smart thermostat

Purchase an approved smart thermostat and enroll in SDG&E’s Reduce Your UseSM Rewards – and you’ll receive a $50 Visa® gift card. Plus, you can earn another $25 for each summer you participate in the Rewards program. Visit to find out if you qualify.

You can find and purchase a selection of eligible smart thermostats by visiting the SDG&E Marketplace. With this online tool, customers can compare prices, estimated energy savings, product features and popularity ratings across thousands of home appliances and electronics. Some of the products qualify for online rebates, and SDG&E Marketplace makes the rebate application process easier than ever. For more information, visit

Trying to beat the heat?

Cool Zones are places where senior citizens and people with special needs can comfortably escape mid-day summer heat and reduce their air-conditioning use, which helps save on energy costs.

Cool Zones are established by the County of San Diego Aging and Independence Services (AIS) and this year are open to the public from May 4 to October 31, 2017. There are currently more than 100 Cool Zones that provide service to some of the hottest areas in the San Diego region. They are located in senior centers and other public buildings.

Find your nearest Cool Zone at or call the County of San Diego at 800.510.2020 and press 6.

Comfort you can count on

Is your heating and A/C system getting quality care? Pay only $50 to receive a System Assessment and Improvement ($300 value) visit. You have two options for payment. When the contractor comes to your home, you can either:

  • Pay $50 to the contractor and they will receive $250 SDG&E rebate check
  • Pay $300 to the contractor and you will be sent the $250 SDG&E rebate check

A qualifying contractor will thoroughly inspect your system and equipment, change the air filter, and clean the condenser coil. You will receive a detailed report showing any additional maintenance or repairs you may need – along with more rebates to offset the costs. Find out if you qualify by calling A/C Quality Care at 800.289.2440 or visiting

-Message from SDG&E, Residential Energy in June

AT&T Career Opportunity for Bilingual Speakers

WHEN:  Thursday, June 8th from 1:00pm – 2:00pm MST
AT&T is hosting a Virtual Retail Information Career Session for the Southwest market.  We have part-time Retail careers available.  Bilingual English/Mandarin and English/Spanish speakers a plus.  Please help us by distributing this email to members, students, other community organizations – anyone you think would be interested.  We graciously thank you for your support!

Join us for our Southwest AT&T Retail Virtual Information Session

Find out what it’s like to work in an industry that’s not about to slow down- with a company that has a legacy of successful innovation and be considered for one of our limited Retail Sales Career Opportunities. AT&T offers paid training, competitive wages, benefits, 401k, paid vacation, employee discounts, tuition reimbursement, and so much more!

You MUST first apply online in order to participate in the event. Please go to: (

Register at (

Best of luck! 

UPAC Youth SeaWorld SD Trip

August, 2016:  UPAC Youth Group Learns About Animal Care and Rescue at SeaWorld San Diego

A group of 30 at-risk adolescents and their families from San Diego visited SeaWorld San Diego on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 for a special behind-the-scenes look at how animal care specialists and trainers care for the park’s animal ambassadors.

The visit was coordinated with the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC) through their Alliance for Community Empowerment (ACE) Program. The organization has a very unique thread to SeaWorld: Keith Yip, the park’s curator of mammals, is the son of Beverly Yip, the founding executive director of UPAC.


Keith Yip, SeaWorld San Diego’s curator of mammals, addresses a group of 30 youth and their families from UPAC.

“When Mom started the organization more than 40 years ago, she was committed to providing San Diego’s Asian communities opportunities to grow and learn,” said Yip, who’s been with the park for more than 30 years. “I cannot be more ecstatic to have these incredible youth here at SeaWorld and see firsthand that if working with animals or pursuing a career in marine biology is something they’re interested in, they can achieve it.”


Animal care specialist Hannah Webster Heublein shares animal information with UPAC youth.


Rescue Team member Jorge Villa shows debris found on rescued animals as a result of human activity.

The group went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the park’s Animal Care area where they fed and interacted with bottlenose dolphins, and learned more about SeaWorld’s Rescue Program. They also watched the educational presentation, Killer Whales: Up Close and the Dolphin Days show. Killer whale and dolphin trainers took the time to chat with the group to provide insight on animal training.

“For almost all our youth, this was their very first time to visit SeaWorld,” said Dante Dauz, ACE’s program supervisor. “We are very proud and honored to work with the youth and families we serve, and they are all remarkable in their resiliency and their dedication to overcome very difficult challenges they face every day.”

“We are always excited to offer them events like this that can help make their day a little brighter,” he added.

Giving Tuesday, December 1, 2015


This year, on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, we are taking part in a campaign that we hope will make history. We are celebrating a day dedicated to giving where charities, families and businesses will all come together for ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬.
As the festive holiday season soon gets underway, we want to share the simple idea behind #GivingTuesday is to encourage people and businesses to help out a good cause. Whether it’s making a donation, volunteering your time or just spreading the word, #GivingTuesday is a call to action for everyone who wants to give something back.
We are planning to be part of this celebrations and we need your help to spread the word about why giving back to UPAC makes a difference.
Mark your calendars!