Immigrant and Refugee Health in California


Please note that this is a pilot program and currently only offered on a limited basis.

There are 10 million immigrants living in California, more than in any other state. California’s immigrants play a crucial role in the global economy, and certain sectors of these communities have unique health needs/challenges.

California has received over 3 million refugees since 1975. In a changing political climate, fewer refugees have come in recent years. The support and health needs remain significant.

California’s Bay Area offers a hub of social services and safety net options for vulnerable populations. This program offers unique insight into the challenges and successes offered by private, public, and nonprofit sector institutions and organizations striving to offer high-quality health and social service safety net to vulnerable populations and communities in California, particular, immigrant communities and refugee/displaced peoples.

Students on this program will spend 2 weeks in the Bay Area, followed by 2 weeks in California’s Central Valley. They will examine refugee and migrant health and rights through the lenses of policy, advocacy, education, and political art. Students will learn from local success stories and examine gaps in services through site visits, community engagement activities, weekly lectures, guided reflection, and literature review and discussion.

CFHI offers options for students and faculty to fit your interests and schedule. Choose your program duration, or for a comparative experience, choose to participate in multiple programs. CFHI can also often accommodate alternate program dates upon request. For more information see our How to Apply page.


4 Weeks $4,300
Arrival Dates: 
Aug 10, 2019 

Examples of Clinical Rotations and Public Health Placements

Participants will learn and gain experience from the work of Non-Profits, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), educators, and healthcare providers, including promotoras who provide safety net services to immigrant and refugees in the Bay Area and the California Central Valley. 

Prenatal Program for Homeless Persons

For the past 25 years, this organization has provided prenatal services to mothers, with a goal of ending childhood poverty. More than 4,000 families have access to their services each year– with nearly 200 families served monthly.  

Labor Program

This program has been extremely successful at uniting, empowering, and organizing immigrant workers for dignified work and fair wages in San Francisco. Workers are organized in two collectives, one for men and the other for women, to build collective power, develop skills, and operate a shared enterprise. The program also provides a platform to hire workers at published rates to promote fair wages.

Arts and Mural Project

This program is dedicated to using self-expression as a tool for positive social change. It strives to enrich communities through collaborative murals that celebrate culture, unity, history, and nature. The program has affordable youth arts education programs that help preserve and restore the city's treasured public art relics. 

Domestic Violence Prevention Organization

This organization has operated since 1978 as a community-based, multi-service agency, serving survivors of domestic violence in San Francisco and the larger Bay Area. This organization understands the complexities of domestic violence and highly values the rights and dignity of survivors from different points in their healing process.

Social-Justice Inspired Spiritual Movement Organization:

This organization fosters social justice and provides social service and spiritual guidance to the community. The organization is also dedicated to strengthening communities and transforming lives in San Francisco’s culturally vibrant but poverty-stricken Tenderloin neighborhood.  

A Parent-Child Focused on Quality Education:

This organization is dedicated to achieving economic and social equality for all through education by providing families with the knowledge and skills to partner with schools and communities to ensure their children achieve their full potential. They do this by giving families the tools and knowledge to effectively impact their children’s educational success, informing families can improve their children’s future, and honoring and valuing parental participation and perspectives.

Bilingual Family Advocacy Organization

This organization has helped thousands of Fresno County residents through life-changing programs that provide support, resources, outreach, and education. The nonprofit organization assists families and individuals through targeted, culturally sensitive and bilingual programs that promote health and wellness, strengthen families, help victims of crime and encourage civic engagement.

South-Asian Refugee Services Center in Fresno:

This organization provides services to the growing needs of Southeast Asian refugees (Cambodians, Hmong, Lao, and Vietnamese) in Fresno County. These immediate services included education, employment linking services, social integration, health education, and housing. This organization is highly sought for its cross-cultural expertise in the areas of health, law, and social integration. The organization continues to provide services in employment, citizenship, leadership, networking, mental health, research, and advocacy. These services serve as the foundation of the organization as we transition refugees to become new Americans.

Immigrant Youth Protection Legal Services:  

This organization ensures that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation; advances laws, policies, and practices that ensure children’s protection and uphold their right to due process and fundamental fairness; and promotes in countries of origin, transit, and destination durable solutions to child migration that are grounded in the best interests of the child and ensure that no child is forced to involuntarily migrate.

Oaxacan Indigenous Development Organization

This organization works on achieving the well-being, equity, and self-determination of indigenous communities. By promoting and strengthening civic participation, economic, social, cultural development and resistance of indigenous communities.

Rural Legal Assistance Foundation:

This organization's goal is to help rural poor families to improve their economic, social and political conditions and become more civically engaged in their communities. They provide informational services, high-quality legal assistance, advocacy support, and community capacity building to provide immigrants the opportunity to be a part of the decision making process that affects their families and community. 

Community Benefit Leadership Foundation

This organization provides education and immigration services for students, parents, and professionals that include professional development internships, leadership programs, seminars, scholarships, and volunteer opportunities. In addition, they provide immigration services such as DACA renewals, naturalization assistance, family petitions, other immigration remedies, and presentations.

Immigrant Integration Collaborative:

This organization serves as the leading immigrant integration organization in the Central Valley, dedicated to ensuring full participation of immigrants in building strong, vibrant, inclusive communities. They do this by collaborating, mobilizing and combining the resources and talents of our allies to offer, on a large scale, high-quality immigration and naturalization services; strengthening and growing the capacity of members to serve and empower immigrant communities, and support leadership development by leveraging needed public and private sector resources; working to change the dominant discourse about immigrants and immigration; working to achieve policies which support opportunities for immigrants to pursue their dreams.

Voter- Participation Organization for Latin American Immigrants: 

This organization unites Latino, immigrant, and allied communities to promote social and economic justice through citizenship workshops, voter registration, and voter participation.

Legal Services Organization:

This organization is a public interest law firm established for the purpose of providing free civil legal assistance to low-income individuals, organizations, and communities.

Farm Workers Resouce Mobilization Initiative:

This organization provides education, job training, job placement, and other support services to farm working families and other program participants. They accomplish this by improving the quality of life of farmworkers and other participants, being the premier provider of services, empowering customers to achieve self-sufficiency, providing quality services and training and by creating a solid community partnership. 

Farm-worker Labor Organization:

This organization organizes in major agricultural sectors. They continue to actively champion legislative and regulatory reforms for farm workers covering issues such as worker protections, pesticides, and immigration reform.


This program takes place in California in both the Bay Area and the Central Valley. 

Accommodations & Homestays

Lodging is not included in the Bay Area.

In the Central Valley, all your accommodations will be prearranged. Students will be staying at a rental house in Fresno and a hotel in Firebaugh. Each student will have his/her own bed, but rooms will be shared. 

Eligibility: Who Can Apply?

This CFHI program is ideal for students and non-students of all levels and health disciplines and welcome anyone interested in and passionate about global health and medicine. In particular, this program will focus on challenges faced in providing adequate medical care in both urban and rural settings and deepening understanding of rural/urban divides.

For more information, please read CFHI's general eligibility requirements.

Language Required: English 

Arrival Information

Students should plan to arrive in the Bay Area on the first Saturday of their program. A meeting point will be communicated to students prior to program start-date. 

What’s Included?

CFHI Program fees include the majority of your onsite expenses (at the exception of your lodging and meals in the Bay Area part of the program). As a nonprofit, CFHI strives to keep fees low and offers fundraising opportunities, scholarships and discounts.

Pre-Departure Support

  • Guidance from CFHI staff in San Francisco before departure
  • Program-specific materials with information on making travel arrangements, visa requirements, recommended immunizations, etc.

On-Site Services

  • Welcome orientation with other participants covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
  • Orientation including cultural activities
  • Public and private transportation to program sites
  • Transportation to lodging site in the Central Valley with local CFHI representative
  • Lodging in the Central Valley
  • CFHI Local Team: providing instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
  • Weekly health and education lectures
  • Placement and coordination of clinical/public health/education activities
  • Two meals per day in the Central Valley

Post-Return Resources

  • Access to CFHI alumni-only LinkedIn group featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
  • CFHI alumni newsletter highlighting events, resources, and ways to stay involved

Uniquely CFHI, 50% or more of student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically underserved health systems.

Yenifer Gallegos-Mejia Local Coordinator: Yenifer is completing the final year of her Master of Social Work program, with an emphasis on child welfare at California State University, Fresno. She grew up in Kerman, a small rural town in the California Central Valley– where she learned the importance of community service/building and advocacy. From a young age, Yenifer was acutely aware of the effects of poverty on the quality of life in rural settings. These experiences influenced her decision to take action and tackle pressing issues in Kerman on food insecurity, underage drinking, wildlife preservation, access to reproductive services and campaigns to end tobacco smoking in parks. Yenifer is passionate about education, mental health, civic engagement, and gender equality. In her free time, she loves traveling, trying new foods, volunteering in the community, journaling, and spending time with her husband and their fur baby, Zoey.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a global roadmap set forth by the United Nations General Assembly to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure the well-being of all individuals by the year 2030. This program highlights the following SDGs: