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October 7, 2014 

Dear IRCO Friend,


Happy fall! As the weather begins to change we are gearing up for a busy next few months at IRCO. New programs, a new school year for our youth and for the first time IRCO's been included in Willamette Week's Give!Guide - we couldn't be happier!


Take a moment to read about some of our projects, clients and engagement opportunities below and join us for an event soon - we'd love to see you!

IRCO Client Spotlight:

 IRCO Youth Program Takes Student from Refugee Camp To Johns Hopkins University in 3 Years 


"When I first began coming to IRCO's AIM program, I only went because I got to see other teenagers who were in the same situation as I'm in. It was incredibly easy to relate to them and ignite conversations about our difficulties. We would then talk about our differences: what country we're from, the cultural food, and the various types of cultural dances. Of course we also bragged about the number of languages we spoke.


In the past three years, I have gained many skills and have grown so much because of the help I got through the AIM program. Having the opportunity to visit a multitude of colleges, go on fun, educational field trips with my peers, learn how to incorporate America's culture and my culture, and make an impact in my immediate community has been a true blessing. As a senior in high school today, I realize how instrumental IRCO's AIM program has been to my success. In fact, it is one of the main reasons that I got accepted into one of my dream schools, Johns Hopkins University. More importantly, it will continue to make an impact on me, and I will be sure to pay it forward." - Melaku Arega 

Report Released on
African Youth Gang Risk

The first local research report on the risk to gang involvement faced by African youth has just been released. Sponsored by Multnomah County, the report is a collaborative community needs assessment between IRCO and Portland State University's Center to Advance Racial Equity that was spurred by a fatal 2013 shooting at a SE Portland TriMet transit station. The shooting involved two gang-affiliated youth, one an African refugee, marking the first death in Portland of an African gang-affiliated youth and underscoring the need for culturally specific gang prevention and outreach services. We are confident that this report will result in more diverse and effective services for Portland's gang-affected youth. You can read it here.

Upcoming Events
Bi-weekly Volunteer Orientations
Oct. 1, 6 pm
Oct. 15, 12:00 pm
Oct. 29, 6:00 pm
Nov. 12, 12:00 pm
Nov. 26, 6:00 pm
Dec. 10, 12:00 pm

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Outstanding Volunteer: 
Lezlie Bugg

"Working as a volunteer with IRCO's RIFE program has been especially gratifying. Currently I am working with a group of refugees from the country of Nepal. The folks I am working with are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and need to learn not only English as a second language but also American Sign Language. It has been fun as we bridge the language gap, navigating between four very different languages as we learn from each other. We play word games, study sentence structure and vocabulary and talk about what it is like to live in Nepal compared to living in the United States. I think I am learning every bit as much as the students are!" 

Learn more about volunteering at IRCO here

Connecting Youth to Vital Work Experiences


Today, with only 1 in 4 teens working, gaining real work experience is harder and more important than ever. In partnership with Worksystems, Inc., IRCO's youth employment programs provide an essential workforce entry point. The Work Experience for Youth Program (WEX-Y) assists students in finding short-term, project-based work experiences by partnering with 11 organizations to refer, screen, train and provide a skilled entry-level workforce solution for youth from diverse backgrounds.


The Summer Works program - working with high schools, alternative schools, post-secondary and community-based organizations - connects students to first summer job opportunities. This year Summer Works served more than 550 youth in two counties and worked with over 400 businesses, resulting in a 90% successful completion rate. "My time at Community Cycling Center wasn't just about learning inventory and retail control," said Ben Kitoko of his summer job. "It was about learning from my supervisor and co-workers." For more about IRCO's youth employment programs, contact Asha Aiello at  

Find Expert Translation at IRCO's Language Bank
IRCO's International Language Bank has a widely recognized reputation and history of providing superior translation services by native-speaking translators, offering everything from the initial translating and proofreading to expert typesetting and desktop publishing. "Your service has been exceptional," Portland Community College, one of ILB's happy clients, said. "We will certainly be using you again."
Because of its direct link to IRCO and the diverse immigrant and refugee communities that it serves, ILB has unique access to extensive multilingual resources. With its particular focus on growing refugee and immigrant populations in the Portland metropolitan area and across the U.S., ILB offers specialized translation services in more than 50 languages, including Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Somali, Arabic, Burmese, Lao, Farsi, Korean, Bosnian, Romanian, and Nepali.

To find out more about ILB's translation services, visit or call (971) 271-6481.



Empowering Victims and Celebrating Families


In 1998, fifteen refugee women started the Refugee and Immigrant Family Strengthening (RIFS) program to support and empower families experiencing domestic and sexual violence or exploitation. Today RIFS assists more than 650 victims and their children annually, and its culturally specific domestic violence program offers crisis intervention, intensive bilingual/bicultural case management, emergency housing, and legal advocacy. "I really love my case worker," one RIFS client said. "I am thankful for all the help provided to me."


Each December, RIFS staff throw a holiday appreciation party for clients and their children to celebrate their accomplishments - an event they look forward to every year! RIFS is already collecting toys and other gifts, hygiene items, and flowers for this year's holiday party. To make a donation, contact RIFS Program Manager Stacey Vu at or (971) 271-6430.


Get to Know IRCO's Board of Directors!

An agency started by refugees for refugees, IRCO is still run largely by members from the diverse communities we serve - more than 80% of IRCO staff and 9 of the 11 members of IRCO's Board of Directors are former immigrants, refugees or asylees.

Valerie S. Palmer, Board President, has a long career in global healthcare and research focused on diseases and disorders affecting the world's most vulnerable populations. An instructor of Global Health and Neurology and the director of the interprofessional Community Health and Education Exchange (iCHEE) program at OHSU's Global Health Center, Valerie's diverse and inspirational work was recently highlighted in the research publication International Innovation. Read the article here.

Ronault (Polo) Catalani
, Board Secretary, is widely known in Portland's refugee and immigrant community as a lawyer, activist, and writer, as well as the New Portlanders Program Coordinator with the City of Portland's Office of Equity and Human Rights. Later this month, Polo will be recognized with the 2014 Oregon Immigration Achievement Award, which celebrates the accomplishments of immigrants making significant contributions to Oregon. 

Get to know more about all of IRCO's Board Members here!

IRCO | | | 10301 NE Glisan St.
Portland, OR 97220
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Thank you for your interest in IRCO! Please join us for our next informational workshop, Faces of IRCO: Iraq, August 7th at 6:00pm at IRCO. Free. Register here.