Celebrating 40 Years!

Founded in 1976 by refugees to help others resettle from war-torn countries, IRCO has been creating programs to support Oregon’s newest residents for 40 years. 2016 marks four decades of strengthening our immigrant and refugee communitiescome celebrate with us!

IRCO's 40th Anniversary Gala:
May 21, 6:00 p.m. | The Nines Hotel

Tickets will be on sale soon on our website.

Welcoming Syrian Families

“My dream is to get a job to survive,” says Abdulaziz Al Khlief. “I came to America for my children, so they could have a good life, not like the life I had in Syria. My dream is for them to go to school and grow up to have a good future.”

The Al Khlief family is from Homs, one of Syria’s most war-devastated cities, and now they are some of Portland’s newest residents. “I feel I am myself here," Abdulaziz says. "I have rights and responsibilities. Now my life has just started.”

Students Give Back

Over the winter holiday, our 4th–8th grade students in Vestal School's tutoring group chose a day of community service for their end of term field trip. While other groups played laser tag or went swimming, our students voted to fill boxes in the Oregon Food Bank’s warehouse and assemble gifts for newly arrived refugee and immigrant families from Burma/Myanmar. 

After volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank, the students presented the food and gifts they had made to newcomer families in a greeting ceremony. Their gift bags included hot chocolate, wood coasters, and handmade soap and games. “I put the food they need in there,” said Nam (second from right in photo). “Food is good to help people. I like to help people.” 

The Path to Citizenship
The journey to becoming a U.S. citizen is different for everyone, including all 10 of the seniors gathered at IRCO for their citizenship class. They have come from different countries and situations—some, like Peter Obrezha, have been in the United States for 15 years. But one afternoon a week, they all come to IRCO to study for their citizenship test.  

“We study the laws and the history of the United States,” said Peter, a 65-year-old from Ukraine. Their teacher asks them practice questions and helps them work out the answer in English. Why does the American flag have 13 stripes? What are two ways that Americans participate in democracy? What ocean is on the East Coast? 

When asked why he wants to become a U.S. citizen, Peter answered proudly: “Because I love the United States. I achieved freedom here.”

Responding to the Community 
With the support of a Northwest Health Foundation grant, IRCO engaged local leaders to assess their communities’ most pressing needs. In partnership with Portland State University’s Center to Advance Racial Equity and Multnomah County Health Department’s Community Capacitation Center, we conducted one-year assessments, gathered community input, and released reports with specific recommendations for systemic change.  

Every community has its unique challenges, so assessments were different for each participating community. In the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community, for example, newly arrived families shared their understanding of education in the U.S. and the steps they were taking to prepare their children for kindergarten.

Read the reports here:
African Maternal Health in the Portland Region
Child & Maternal Health in the Slavic Community
Kindergarten Readiness in the API Community

Our Strategic Plan

One year through our current three-year strategic plan, we are proud of our progress to better serve our clients and community. 

IRCO is listening to community leaders and residents through numerous paths, like our culturally responsive forums to discuss the effects of rising costs of living in East Portland

IRCO is mobilizing community members to advocate for their needs, like our creation of a Resource Advisory Council with immigrant and refugee community leaders who can guide our program development. 

IRCO is communicating by updating our website to a mobile-friendly platform and keeping our community informed with regular updates on Facebook and Twitter. 

IRCO is investing in the future of our families, like our most recently created programs, including capacity building for culturally specific community education workers.

IRCO in the News
Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization