Voice & Viewpoint Newswire
San Diego – Walter Lam was honored recently by Molina Healthcare for his leadership in embracing refugees who have originated from across the world and who now find their home in San Diego.
As President and CEO of the Alliance for African Assistance, Mr. Lam has spent the last 25 years building a community institution – one on which refugees can rely.
Its primary constituents are foreign born persons in need – refugees, internally displaced persons, immigrants, those seeking asylum, victims of torture and war, distressed women and children, and those suffering from economic hardship. Mr. Lam was honored as one of six community heroes at its seventh annual Community Champions Award Dinner. The ceremony was hosted at the Double Tree Hotel in San Diego.
“Walter is a remarkable man. His devotion to the refugee community is demonstrated through the work he does every day”, said Richard Chambers, President of Molina Healthcare of California. “He is committed to not only providing access to their health care needs, but also basic needs like food, clothing and solving the problems of language barriers. I am proud to call him a 2014 Community Champion”.
Alliance for African Assistance was founded in 1989 in San Diego, California. The Alliance was originally founded by Mr. Lam, a refugee with the aim of addressing the many needs of San Diego’s growing African refugee population. Over the twenty-five years, the Alliance has remained consistent to its mission – providing social, cultural and educational support and guidance to all refugees in their resettlement process. During its history, the Alliance has helped over 10,000 refugees resettle from Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Eritrea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq , Russia, and other countries.
“Walter Lam represents the type of leadership that is needed to identify and intervene with problems that others do not immediately recognize”, said Clovis Honore, President of the San Diego Black Health Associates. “In a research effort funded by The California Endowment (called” Giving Voices to the Voiceless”), Walter hosted a focus group of refugees which examined the health deficits of refugees. One respondent expressed dismay that there were barriers getting access to health care provided to refugees – particularly important for people who are struggling with language and cultural issues. Walter’s response was to secure the funding and then designed and built the Alliance Health Clinic, a medical home for the refugees”. Mr. Honore serves on the Board of Directors of Alliance.
Walter Lam was born and raised in northern Uganda. After high school graduation, he fled from political persecution to Kenya and went to Egerton University, where he graduated in Agricultural Engineering.
He returned to Uganda in 1981, and worked with the government in various management positions. In 1986, he again fled political persecution to Kenya and by the end of the year, he found himself in San Diego. He arrived in San Diego in 1989 and recognized that there were no programs that addressed the needs of African refugees settling in San Diego. This awareness resulted in the beginning of an advocacy that has remained throughout these years.
Alliance for African Assistance (AAA) has launched a number of refugee assistance efforts including support to host families, securing safe and affordable housing, assistance with rent and transportation, enrolling children in school, English language classes and job assistance. Alliance Health Clinic, a separate but related entity, provides primary medical care, working with a team of physicians and nurse practitioners, under the leadership of Dr. Richard Butcher. Dr. Butcher is a partner in Multi-Cultural Health of San Diego and former President of the National
Medical Association, the nationwide organization of African American physicians.
Walter is married to Evelyn Lam and they have two sons – Bernard and Julius.