October 2015 

Dear IRCO Friends, 

 

It's been a busy start to the fall season at IRCO! As the refugee crisis continues to unfold in Europe, many of you have called to get more information, to donate and to volunteer. We know that when those refugees arrive, they'll be welcomed into our community with open arms.  

 

As the seasons change, we're getting ready for our annual appeal. It's your chance to help us continue to support refugees and immigrants as they build new lives and community here in Oregon. Keep in touch with us for more information as we approach the end of the year.  

 

In just a few months, we'll be celebrating our 40th anniversary, marking four decades of helping new arrivals create new beginnings. We look forward to celebrating with you!

 

And if you haven't seen it, check out our new website! You can still find us at  www.irco.org Read on to find out what we've been up to - and how you can get involved!
Culturally Specific Programs Support Our Parents

Like many refugees, Tun Han and his wife Ma Than Aye faced numerous challenges when they arrived in the U.S. from Burma: learning a new language, finding a place to live and jobs to support their four children. But Tun also had a pending court case for illegal hunting and fishing.

With advocacy from our Burmese Parenting Education (BPE) program, Tun's felony sentence was reduced to a misdemeanor. In addition to understanding the U.S. legal system, Tun and his wife learned about banking and the importance of early childhood education during their 13-week BPE classes. 

Tun was also connected to IRCO's employment services. His family now lives in their own apartment, all four children are enrolled in school, and Tun's mother, whom has not seen in more than 20 years, will soon join them in Portland. 
Refugee IDA Program
Invests in the Future 

IRCO's Refugee Individual Development Account (IDA) Program helps newcomers start savings accounts so they can reach their goals and rebuild their lives. 

Punam Bhattarai's family left Bhutan for a refugee camp in Nepal when she was two years old. "I am interested in medicine and want to eventually become a nurse," says Punam, who is studying to become a certified nursing assistant and opened her IDA account to save money for tuition. "This program is very special to me for helping me with my education, making my dreams to work in the medical field come true."

Nu Ra, a refugee from Burma who arrived in Portland without her family, had a job, but transportation was a constant stress. After faithfully making monthly deposits in her IDA savings account, she reached her goal and bought a car. "I'm so happy because now I can go anywhere and save more time for myself," Nu says. "Now I'm planning to go to school."
 
Senior Lunches Expand

Walk into IRCO's gym on Tuesday morning and you'll see seniors from around the world chatting and sipp ing coffee, a table of Nepali men playing a passionate game of cards. But you'll find most of the seniors standing in a circle, swinging their arms and circling their hips to a fitness class led by Portland Parks & Recreation. 

This is all before lunch, IRCO's culturally specific meal program for seniors, where the fare rotates between Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Somali, Ethiopian and Russian. Now, thanks to expanded funding from Multnomah County, seniors can come on Wednesdays as well. The only difference is on Wednesday, the seniors run their own exercises. 

"I come to IRCO for lunch, but it's not just lunch," says Habte, an Eritrean elder whose classes can be found doing sit-ups when he leads Wednesday fitness class. "I get exercise and I meet people from Russia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and all over the world." 

Photo courtesy of Multnomah County Communications Office
New Grants & Programs 
Back to School!
Two new SUN Community schools at Sacramento Elementary School and Walt Morey Middle School started up with the beginning of the school year, bringing IRCO's SUN school count to 12!  SUN, or Schools Uniting Neighborhoods, focuses on educational success through an integrated network of support services for students, families and their communities.  
 
IRCO Staff Spotlight: Chiao-Yun (Anny) Hsiao
Get to know Anny, Program Coordinator in the Community Development Department at IRCO Asian Family Center (AFC)
 
How long have you been with IRCO and in what roles?
When I was a teenager, I participated in a summer youth program at AFC. As a young adult, I volunteered at Madison High School as a math tutor. And almost two years ago, I started working with IRCO to assist with Cover Oregon applications. I transitioned to community organizer for the Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Institute (APICLI) and then became program coordinator a few months later. Right now, I am also the program coordinator for the Equitable Housing Advocacy Project and API Newcomers Healthy Beginnings Healthy Communities Project.
 
What is your favorite part of the job?  
I love seeing community members feeling empowered to advocate for systems change and truly feel like they have a voice that matters. I also love working at AFC and getting to know my colleagues. It's humbling to hear everyone's different stories about the journey they took to be where they are today.  
 
How could people support you and your programs?
Spread the word about the Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Institute. We would love more participants from outside of the Portland area, so if you know an Asian or Pacific Islander community member who might be interested in participating in a leadership development program like ours, please let them know!
Upcoming Events
SAVE THE DATE!
May 21, 2016
40th Anniversary Gala 
The Nines Hotel 

 

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10301 NE Glisan St.
Portland, OR 97220