Ubuntu Wellness Project is a community strategy to educate and empower low-income, English Language-Limited, Black immigrants and refugees in South King County on the community impacts of diabetes, obesity and stigmas around mental health and autism.
East African refugee and immigrant families living in South King County, WA are disproportionately located within food deserts; places in which fast, fried and convenience foods are more readily available than healthy, life-sustaining and nutritious options. In parent engagement forums, East African Community Services (EACS) has documented many complaints about limited grocery stores in Black immigrant communities. When grocery stores are present, community members complain about low-quality produce and vegetables. Additionally, 100% of the East African refugee and immigrant families are either proximate to, or well within federal poverty standard. The fast, fried and convenience foods are far cheaper than healthier alternatives. These families are normally much larger than other racial groups in America, and are forced to choose fast food, for economic reasons. Data from King County, Washington Community Health Assessment consistently show African American and Black Immigrant (collectively referred to as “Black”) communities leading with health and economic disparities. Additionally, significant stigma around mental health issues exists in the East African community. Coupled with well-documented Anti-Black racism and anti-immigrant sentiments in South King County, WA, the region has seen a statistically significant uptick in suicide attempts by East African immigrant youth. With obesity, diabetes, youth incarceration and increased suicide attempts, EACS realized it needed to work with community to co-create a new culture; one that encouraged East Africans to embrace mental and physical health, fitness and to re-imagine our relationship with food.
Over the course of one year, the Ubuntu Wellness Project will expose 200 East African participants, drawn from youth, young adult, college-age and adult populations to hundreds of hours of health and food science trainings, physical fitness, community-driven mental health wrap groups (Unbuntu Healing Circles), social networking and physical fitness. The Ubuntu Wellness Project (UWP) has three primary outcomes that function to educate, empower and co-create lifestyles of health consciousness within Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Kenyan immigrant and refugee communities in South King County:
• The primary outcome of UWP is to increase individual and family knowledge of the adverse impacts of unhealthy and imbalanced diets, diabetes and physical and mental stress on human lifespan.
• The secondary outcome is to empower our people to re-center, normalize (and valorize) the pursuit and maintenance of positive mental health as a normal component of Black immigrant culture.
• The last outcome is to address significant stigmas around neurological diversity and combating the extraordinary shame emanating from autism and delayed cognitive development in our communities. Overall, UWP will work to empower East African immigrant families to take ownership of their health, food choices and mental well-being.
East African Community Services
East African Community Services (EACS) is an East African and woman-led 501c3 nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to assist newly arrived East African refugee and immigrant families in South King County. EACS exists solely to empower and equip generations of East African refugee and immigrant families with the resources they need to thrive.