Q&A with our SummerWorks Interns, Hawi and Elisa

Hawi Muleta

Hawi Muleta

Q. How do you relate to Northwest Health Foundation's mission and vision?

Hawi: When I was a kid, I used to tell my parents I wanted to open a hospital one day in my country (Ethiopia), so people would have access to healthcare whether they could afford it or not. I even made a poster with little drawings of what my hospital would look like. My parents kept the posters to push me in my dreams. Even though I don’t have that exact dream now, I still feel very passionate about working with others to improve the societies we live in. I thank my parents for teaching my siblings and I from a young age that what we have in this life, however big or small, is a blessing, and to appreciate it, as well as work hard to change the things we want to see. Those lessons lessons they were taught from their parents, passed down from the generation before them, which were finally passed down to us  showed us the importance of learning from the past, the value of community and doing what we can to help each other grow and thrive. Northwest Health Foundation's promotion of health for everyone, including physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being, easily ties into my own values of advocacy, equity and opportunity for everyone in our communities near and far.

Elisa: I’ve always felt compelled to do everything in my power to improve the quality of life for the members of my community. Growing up, I wasn’t sure how my actions could directly influence the world around me, but through my high school years I have realized that my voice matters, and there are many different ways to get involved in social justice and advocacy. Northwest Health Foundation’s work to build connections between individuals and groups who seek to affect change resonates with me profoundly. I admire the fact that NWHF uses its platform to work with different regional communities and uplift local advocacy groups working for health equity. Many people (myself included) want to make a difference in the communities they call home, and NWHF not only understands this, but encourages the involvement and leadership of community members in their work towards health equity.

Q. What have you learned from your experience at Northwest Health Foundation?

Hawi: What I have learned from working with the staff at NWHF is looking at all the ways in which health can be promoted, as well as pushed to another level, as we learn new things. Life is not static, nor should health be or how we work with others to change, inspire, build and provides different avenues to support one another.

Elisa: My experience here even though it’s not over yet  has given me so many opportunities to learn about social justice issues present in Portland and the world as a whole. It has also been amazing to work in a building that houses so many other nonprofit organizations. Even through just daily activities, I have been able to meet and speak with so many people from so many different walks of life, and learn about what their organizations are working towards. Interning here is also the first job I’ve ever had, so I’ve learned how a real office functions, and how to dress and act in a professional environment.

Elisa Suarez

Elisa Suarez

Q. If you could make one change in your community, what change would you make?

Hawi: If I could make one change in my community, I would make higher education more accessible for students from all walks of life. Education in any form is important, but due to the rapid increase of tuition, many are unable to pursue higher education, especially people of color who are tokenized for “diversity” purposes instead of seeing the systemic issues that have played a part in their lives in seeking education.

Elisa: If I could make one change in my community, I would make it possible for the students at my school to remain in the district, as opposed to being forced out due to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. I transferred into my school from a different neighborhood, but I have witnessed too many of my friends from around Northeast have to leave their childhood homes and move to Troutdale, Fairview, or Gresham (a.k.a. “The Numbers”). It is enraging when the infrastructure of a neighborhood improves, yet the original members of the community are unable to reap the benefits, because it is no longer financially possible for them to lay claim to the place they call home.

Q. What are you going to do next, after this internship?

Hawi: After this internship, I will return to Willamette University to finish my last year of undergrad and see where life takes me next.

Elisa: After this internship, I will be going into my senior year of high school and dancing full-time when I am not in school. I will also be taking courses at Portland Community College in order to complete some of my prerequisites for my freshman year of college. I plan on majoring in English and minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies at a four-year university, most likely somewhere warm and sunny.

Q. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would you choose?

Hawi: I don’t think I could only eat one food for the rest of my life. Life would get boring, at least food-wise.

Elisa: If I had to eat one type of food for the rest of my life, it would be Thai food for sure. But if I had to pick just one actual food item, I would probably go with rice, because it’s very versatile and gluten free!

Meet more of Northwest Health Foundation's staff.

Q&A with our Executive Support & Operations Manager, Stephenie Smith

Stephenie standing in a field of corn. 

Q. What led you to your job at NWHF?

A. I have always been drawn to the work that Northwest Health Foundation does, especially in the last three years. My work with Open Meadow’s Step Up program lit a fire in me to devote my life to building & supporting healthy communities and fighting racism. After taking a year to work the family business with my mother and sister, it was time to get back to my passion. When I saw the opening at NWHF for the Executive Support & Operations Manager position, I jumped at the chance to work for a foundation whose work and values so closely matched my own. 

Q. What have you learned in your first few months here?

A. I have learned so much in my first few months here! Aside from the normal learning curve of figuring out a new position, one of my favorite parts of this new job is getting to meet so many people from the community! I have learned that there are SO many phenomenal people in Oregon & SW Washington doing amazing work to strengthen underserved communities! I am inspired on a daily basis by the stories I hear and from watching how hard my co-workers work to make an impact.

Q. What do you see as the greatest obstacle facing communities in our region?

A. Big question. Looking at this from a big picture perspective, I will use one word: inequity. This word could be applied to every aspect of life for our underserved populations, particularly for our neighbors of color and our neighbors living in poverty. These groups experience inequities in education, jobs, housing, health care, representation in positions of power, daily microaggressions, and so much more. A large part of this obstacle is the number of people, in power or otherwise, that choose to be oblivious to such inequities. 

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest strength?

A. Although it doesn’t always seem like it, I strongly feel that Portland has many pockets of strong communities that are working to reduce the inequities that exist. There are many people dedicated to the work of creating equitable environments for every Portlander. I hope that we can figure out how to unite forces and work together more regularly.

Q. Why have you chosen to live in Portland, over any other place in the world?

A. I am originally from Half Moon Bay, California (yes, I am a transplant!). Although I miss the ocean and my family that remains in California, Portland is my home now (and has been since 1999). I originally moved here to be close to my brother’s first child. Since then, much of my family has moved up to Portland, and I now have two nieces and nephews that live here. I am about to have my own baby, and I am so happy that she will be surrounded by cousins and family to love and support her! 

I do love to travel and spent almost a year in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands many moons ago. I believe that someday I will retire on a tropical beach!

Q. What do you like best about the holiday season?

I am a bit of a Christmas fanatic. To me, Christmas has never been about presents. I grew up in a household with very little money but a lot of love. We never received expensive gifts. We did, however, always get the whole family together to open our stockings (which always had a tangerine in the toe) and to eat. These two things remain my favorite Christmas traditions. Aside from these specific traditions, I cling to the idea that miracles can happen during this time of year and try to give back to my community as much as possible!

Q. What is the best gift you have ever given?

A. My favorite gift to give every year is for my nieces’ & nephews’ birthdays. I take each of them out for a one-on-one dinner to the restaurant of their choice. We started the tradition when they were very young. I love getting the opportunity to spend some quality time with each of them every year. 

Q. As a soon-to-be mom, what are your hopes for your baby?

A. My baby will be extremely loved by our family and my phenomenal community. She is multi-racial. I know this will have a large impact on her life. I have seen firsthand the impact this can have on a student, child, teen, adult. My mission is to keep working as hard as possible for equity and to surround myself and my baby girl with people who will support her and give her space to have tough conversations about her experiences. She will carry on the change-making needed for this community and the world to understand and value difference.

Q&A with one of our summer interns, Viktoria Perekurenko

Photo portrait of Viktoria.

Q. What have you learned from your internship at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I have learned so many things from my internship! The biggest thing is that there is so much community health work going on in our region. It was great to learn about it in a classroom setting at PSU, but way more amazing to actually see that work in action and see how so many people can come together to create healthier communities. 

Q. What is your favorite memory from your time at NWHF?

A. My favorite memory from my time here was being able to go on site visits with Jen and Mike. It was so great to actually go into communities and see the amazing work that they are doing and see communities advocate for themselves. I was so encouraged to see that there were even groups in my own community who were working together to make our community better and healthier.

Q. What projects did you work on while you were at NWHF?

A. While I was here, the main project I worked on involved creating a database that included all community health-related contacts in the region we serve. My main focus was Southwest Washington, and I looked for parent-teacher associations, religious groups, early learning hubs, schools, districts, county leadership, medical facilities and anyone remotely related to community health... Let's just say I did a lot of Googling!

Q. What are your next steps after leaving NWHF?

A. After leaving NWHF, I plan on doing some rigorous job searching. My main goal is to figure out which aspects of community health interest me most and see how I can get involved in those areas. 

Q. As a Clark County resident, what do you love about Southwest Washington? What makes SW WA special?

A. I absolutely love SW WA (especially Vancouver!) I love the many trails there are to walk and bike, as well as amazing local food, markets and coffee shops. I love the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site because it is very beautiful and often has interesting events. I love that it is near a body of water and has accessibility to many recreational activities. I also really love that even though it isn't technically a small town, it still feels like one, and feels like one big community.

Q. As a recent college graduate, what is the weirdest thing about being out of school?

A. The weirdest thing about being out of school is having free evenings and actually being able to take Sunday naps, because there is no homework! It's also strange to see my friends get ready to go back to school and knowing that I don't have to. 

Q. If you could be on any game show, what game show would you choose? 

A. If I could be on any show, I think I would pick the Amazing Race, because it would be fascinating to travel to so many awesome places and learn to do so many cool things from other cultures. 

Thank you to Viktoria (and our other summer intern, Nick) for your invaluable contributions to NWHF this summer! We definitely appreciate all of the Googling you did!

Q&A with NWHF Board Member, Andrea Miller

Photo portrait of Andrea Miller.

Q. What is a day like in the life of Andrea Miller?

A. Every day I get to meet new people, work on some of the most pressing issues in Oregon, and put into practice my values of equity and justice for all. I consider myself pretty lucky. This kind of work, however, is non-stop, and the hours can be erratic—working on the weekends and evenings. The key to my daily productivity and sustainability in this work is the 30 to 45 minutes I take in the morning to exercise. It helps to clear my head and get me ready to take on the day.

Q. What would you consider the most important bills that passed in the 2015 legislative session?

A. So many important bills passed in the 2015 legislative session, it's hard for me to label one as "the most important." From where I sit as the director of Causa, I will say that there are several bills that will have a significant impact on communities of color. One of those is the Paid Sick Days bill, which will allow nearly half a million Oregonians to earn sick days so that they can take a day off of work to care for a sick child or themselves without having to miss a day of pay. Considering that 60% of Latino workers did not have access to one paid sick day before this bill, this is monumental. The other one is the End Profiling bill, which bans the practice of profiling as a law enforcement tactic. Oregon will soon shift to community policing, a more effective public safety strategy that fosters trust between law enforcement officers and communities.  People in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are targeted the most, leading to higher arrest and conviction rates among people of color generally—and African-Americans specifically. The End Profiling bill is a step in the right direction, as local communities across the nation struggle with the correlation between police violence and communities of color.

Q. What are Causa's goals this year, and how are you working to meet them?

A. (1) Make progress on statewide policies that impact Latino families during the legislative session. (2) Defend against proposed statewide policies that don’t support equity for all Oregonians. (3) Support immigrants through the processes of naturalization and deferred action status and serve as a resource hub for immigrant families seeking relief.

So how've we done so far?

(1) During the legislative session, 2 out of 5 bills on Causa’s legislative agenda became law. Our strategy to make that happen was two-fold: train and mobilize people directly impacted by the issue to voice their support for the bill, and participate in strong coalitions that support our priority bills. The coalitions we were a part of included the Oregon Health Equity Alliance and the Fair Shot Coalition, both of which had significant wins last session.

(2) The same group that put Measure 88 on the ballot has filed two initiative petitions that will negatively impact communities of color. Causa and our partners have convened a broad coalition to proactively counteract the effort to qualify two ballot measures for the 2016 election.

(3) Causa holds naturalization and DACA workshops to help individuals fill out their application free of cost or at a low-cost with attorney assistance. We’ve also launched a bilingual website and Facebook page called Oregon Immigration Resource to widely distribute resources, updates, and information about administrative relief and other immigration programs.

Q. What are next steps for immigration reform since DAPA passed?

A. Unfortunately, we can’t turn our attention away from the immigration administrative relief that Obama made possible just yet. The executive action is being challenged in the courts by a group of states that disagree with Obama’s administrative changes. Causa and our national partners are doing all we can to advocate for the deferred action programs to move forward so that the immigrant parents of U.S. born children can apply for protection from deportation, work authorization and, in Oregon, get a driver license. Ultimately, we’ll keep advocating for Congressional action on immigration reform long-term, but first we need to secure the small victory that was made in 2015 with the expansion of the deferred action program.

Q. How does your role on the NWHF board compliment your work at Causa, and vice versa?

A. The relationships I’ve built through Causa, and my experience as a past [NWHF] grantee, inform my decision making with the Community Engagement Committee at NWHF. I’m in a very privileged position where I both get to be part of philanthropy that supports equity initiatives and a practitioner of on-the-ground advocacy and organizing work. I get to see both the 1,000-foot level and the 10-foot level of this larger work, which sharpens my abilities both at Causa and NWHF.

Q. How do you identify with NWHF's guiding values and equity priorities?

A. One of NWHF’s guiding principles I identify with most is, “Promoting upstream, systemic change through advocacy is often the most effective strategy for improving community health.” One of the reasons I started working at Causa is because I saw advocacy and policy change as a way to make big and long lasting impact for Oregon families. NWHF invests in organizations that seek systemic change, and that's a very intentional and long-term commitment. It can be difficult to see the results of your work when we’re talking about system change, but it pays off in the long run by closing the gap on health, education, economic and other disparities among Oregon’s diverse communities.

Q. What drew you to Oregon?

A. I was born in Eugene and raised in Salem, Oregon. While I’ve grown up here, I’ve chosen to make Oregon my home and start a career here. Growing up, there were so many pressures to leave and explore new states and cities, and to this day I still get asked why I never left or if I have plans to leave in the future. I love Oregon—our trees, our people, our communities. Oregon and the leaders that live here have allowed me so many opportunities to grow in my professional and personal life. I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else.

Q. What is your favorite place in the U.S. outside of Oregon?

A. Maui, Hawaii. There are obvious reasons why that would be the case for nearly anyone—the gorgeous beaches, the weather. But Maui is my favorite place in the U.S. besides Oregon because it is my second home. My family has lived in Hawaii for five generations. My grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins all live there. I try to visit every other year. I’m very lucky to have roots in such a beautiful part of our country.

Q&A with PIN Program Officer, Renée Jensen Reinhardt

Renée with a  bike on a wooden walkway surrounded by trees.

June is Renée's last month with Northwest Health Foundation. She has been here since 2006, and we will miss her very much! Best wishes for your future, Renée!

Q. How did you end up at NWHF?

A. What attracted me to NWHF was the organization's mission to advance, support and promote health in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Prior to joining the Foundation, I worked at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization for 11 years, which provides a variety of social services for the refugee and immigrant community.

Health is an important aspect of creating thriving communities, and working at NWHF seemed like the next step in my efforts to create healthy opportunities, albeit in a completely different way. I went from working at a nonprofit organization providing necessary direct services for the community to collaborating with foundations, academia and nurse organizations on improving the quality of health services.

 

Q. What is the most important thing that you have learned since you have been here?

A. How important collaboration and relationship building are in order to move the needle. This was evident in the work of the Foundation and in Partners Investing in Nursing's Future (PIN). Practicing these skills, and trust building, are invaluable.

I also learned that it takes a LONG time for warm water to reach the third floor in our office building. So plan ahead if you're taking a shower after you workout at lunch. ;)

Q. What has been the biggest change, to you or the organization, in your years here?

A. The number of wrinkles I have now!

But regarding NWHF, I've been here for over nine years, and there have been a number of big changes over the years. NWHF's move to Old Town/Chinatown, the creation of the Aschenbrener Center for Philanthropy, transition to a new CEO, and the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative. These are all big changes aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Q. What will you miss most about NWHF and PIN?

A. Well, let's see. Is it the coffee? The traveling? The practical jokes? These will all be missed. But most of all, I will miss the people. I had the pleasure to work with some very talented, fun and caring individuals within the staff and the national PIN program. Whether they were in Oregon, the Marshall Islands, or on the East Coast, there are an amazing number of people out there working to create better health in our communities.

Q. What are your hopes for the future?

A. To see my son grow up into a loving, giving, happy and healthy human being. I also have hope that each person recognizes that they have the opportunity to create a ripple effect of kindness and caring that can change the world, even if it seems insignificant at the time.

Bonus Questions:

Q. What is your favorite thing about Oregon summers?

A. Being outside and seeing so many people venturing out to play, walk and visit. The odds of running into your neighbors definitely go up when the sun comes out!

Q. What did you do during summer vacation when you were a kid?

A. I grew up in Eastern Oregon, and summer vacation was usually one of two things: driving around Oregon or Washington to visit family or going camping. It was a matter of being on your best behavior in a car for four to eight hours of driving through the Gorge in 90+ degrees with no AC, or running wild and getting dirty on the river banks in the mountains. Hmmm...

Q. What is your favorite cartoon character?

A. There are so many! Jimmy Neutron comes to mind. But from my youth, Underdog. I still have the Taco Time collectable glass in a box somewhere.

 

For more information about PIN, visit the PIN website.

Q&A with our Executive Support & Board Relations Coordinator, Eduardo Moreno

Q. How did you wind up at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. Before coming to NWHF, I spent over five years working as a mentor coordinator for culturally specific and extended day programs at several schools in Portland. The summer of 2012, I learned that a community leader and someone I looked up to (Nichole June Maher) would be leaving the NAYA Family Center to serve as president of NWHF. At that time, I didn't know what NWHF did exactly, but I was very familiar with Nichole's work in the community via the JustPortland Steering Committee and NAYA. Before she started at NWHF, Nichole and I had several conversations about the many community organizations NWHF partnered with and the very exciting world of grant making. A month after Nichole started here, I decided to apply for the Board/Exec Support position, because I had a good feeling that this organization would maximize all of my talents and broaden my knowledge of community-based organizations across the state... and, boy, was I right!

Q. What is a typical day like in the life of Eddie?

A. First forty minutes of my day: Wake up. Get ready. Find a Car2Go. First ten minutes at work: Say good morning to Lalin. Grab a cup of coffee. Log in to my computer... and that's about the only consistency I have in my daily life. I'm never bored, and I love having every day look absolutely different.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about Oregon Active Schools and the role you play in that project?

A. A little… hmmm… well there are many moving parts, but, in general, we have a partnership with Nike and Kaiser Permanente Northwest. The partnership created 102 focused grants to elementary schools in Oregon and promotes the Let's Move! Active Schools campaign. I love the Oregon Active Schools partnership not only because I get to work with a great team from Nike and KPNW, but because my days are spent reconnecting with my education peeps. I know that resource-constrained schools will benefit from this opportunity to get kids moving for at least 60 minutes a day before, during and after school. I have conversations with PE specialists, principals and superintendents about the $3000 grants to promote physical activity in their schools. No one has turned us away to date. I collect their stories, share best practices and connect schools to other funding opportunities.

Q. How does Oregon Active Schools fit into the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative?

A. Oregon Active Schools fits into HB+HC for many reasons, but, simply put, we want to inspire a lifelong love of movement and bring the many benefits of physical activity to every child in Oregon. We know that active kids do better. They are healthier, and they perform better academically. Having healthier active students will contribute to our community’s overall health.

Q. What do you love about Oregon & SW Washington?

A. Too many things to list, but I'll go with how much I love our beautiful scenery. The trees, rivers, mountains, etc. are very unique to our region.

Q. What would you change?

A. The cost of a plane ticket to San Diego! I wish it was less expensive so I could visit my family and friends more often, or fly them up here more often.

Q. What is your favorite day of the week and why?

A. Tuesday, because I get together with my best friend (we call it binner), and we try out new restaurants/bars or revisit our favorite places.

Q. If you could recommend any musical artist to the readers of this Q&A, what would you recommend?

A. I don't have one artist in particular, but I highly recommend that everyone play music while they cook. Every dish I make is inspired by whatever Pandora station I am feeling that day, and I've been told it is reflected in my cooking. If you decide to try this, make sure to invite me over for dinner. I'll bring the wine!

Q&A with NWHF Board Member, Phil Wu

Phil participated in our first ever Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Gathering on March 9, 10 and 11 at Kahneeta Resort & Spa in Warm Springs, OR. Here's what he thought about it:

Q. What did you takeaway from the HB+HC Organizing Grant Communities Gathering in March?

A. We had twenty-five very diverse communities from all parts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, and every community identified and expressed a unique challenge they intend to meet with passion, commitment and leadership. For me, the Gathering highlighted the fact that for many communities the HB+HC framework (or health compass) is a different way of thinking about their work, and they are just at the beginning of the process. Not all of their thoughts have crystallized, nor can they answer all of the questions posed by the compass.

Q. Who did you meet at the Gathering?

A. It was a whirlwind! I wish I could remember every person and conversation that I experienced during the two days, but this won't be possible. For me, it was great to see some names and faces from organizations that I already know. On the other hand, meeting smart, thoughtful and dedicated people from across the state was inspirational.

Q. What stories did you hear that stuck in your mind?

A. While every story is significant, hearing the voices of youth expressed through the Momentum Alliance always tugs at my heart!

Q. What was the most impactful part of the Gathering for you?

A. For me, two parts: First, the small group exercise at the beginning of the Gathering during which tables of five or six grappled with a "blank" HB+HC health compass was telling! For many at that point there were more questions than answers, and this provoked significant thought! Second, I thought the concept of "power" was identified and effectively framed throughout the Gathering.

Q. What was your favorite part of the Gathering?

A. Again, two parts: First, the four-minute stories introducing each community were inspirational and fun! Second, I could have done nothing more during the two days than share food and have open-ended chats!

Q. What are you excited about for the future of the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative?

A. For me what's most exciting is the building of capacity and "power" of the various communities almost regardless of the outcomes they achieve. And most importantly, a framework will have been created that will help continue the work beyond the Initiative itself.

And, bonus questions!

Q. What is a day like in the life of Phil Wu?

A. OMG! One day is never like the next! With my "semi-retired" status, my days are filled with activities that I truly WANT to do. These include my commitments to Northwest Health Foundation, Community Benefit at Kaiser Permanente and other community endeavors. I also always include time for swimming, walking and cycling, and I always think about great coffee, bread, beer and wine!

Q. What is your favorite cartoon character?

A. I used to draw a variation of Pig Pen: A curious character with a head completely covered in long, unkempt hair, big protruding hands and feet, and no body! This must be an alter ego.

Q&A with Vice President of Strategy & Community Partnership, Suk Rhee

Q. What journey did you take to get here?

A. As for so many, my journey started many generations ago. Mine begins (at least) with my grandparents, whose experiences eventually led our family to immigrate to America. The link between their journey and my arrival at NWHF is that I answered a "Help Wanted" ad in The Asian Reporter.

Q. You just celebrated your tenth anniversary at NWHF. Congratulations! What is the greatest change that you have seen at NWHF in the last ten years?

A. It has taken at least a decade, and we are still in the process, but I would say that it has been changing how we see the world and our place in it.

Q. What is the greatest change that you have seen in Oregon and Southwest Washington in the last ten years?

A. Ten years relative to the age of the earth, I would have to say almost nothing has changed. A decade relative to human life, I would say quite a lot. And relative to the journey of self-determining communities... well, I do not have the wisdom or perspective to say for sure. Personally, though, I hope we look back at the first decade of the 21st century and are able to say that it was the end of the 20th century mindset.

Q. What is one of your favorite NWHF memories?

A. There are so many, especially those that we have shared with our community partners. There are also private moments, when we have laughed and, sometimes, cried together. Whenever we feel and experience deeply together, those are memorable to me.

Q. What are you most looking forward to for the future?

A. Creating it, through the choices and contributions we make today. And high speed rail (the future circa 1965).

Q. Would you rather have to stay in the Pacific Northwest for the rest of your life, or never be allowed to visit or live in the Pacific Northwest again?

A. This is a diabolical question, indeed. Being forced to answer it, I would choose the latter. I inherited a nomadic spirit from my family. My soul could not bear it if it could not be in the whole wide world. That said, I'm likely to go rogue... if you're willing to help me go underground, the code word is "OR-7."

Q. If you could suddenly be an expert at any one thing, what would you choose?

A. The physics and philosophy of the multiverse.

 

Q&A with New Board Member, Marjorie McGee

Q.  When and how did you first become involved with NWHF?

A.  I first learned about NWHF in 2004/05 when I went to a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Conference hosted by Northwest Health Foundation. This conference was my first exposure to CBPR and NWHF. I became very interested in CBPR, particularly with the emphasis on equity in the research processes and on making research relevant to communities. Later I worked on the steering committee for the 2006 NWHF CBPR Conference. 

Q.  As a new NWHF board member, what are you most excited about?

A.  I am really very excited about the Learning Together and Connecting Communities initiative with the inclusion of disability as an axis of diversity (and not just a health outcome to prevent). I especially appreciate the focus by NWHF on making it easier for marginalized communities to build capacity within their communities to address the social and health inequities. I am looking forward to being a part of this work and to learning more from other NWHF board members, staff and partners in the process. 

Q. How do you relate to NWHF's mission and values?

A.  As a member of a community, I am accustomed to well-intentioned organizations working in ways that are very disempowering. NWHF values of equity and mission in building community capacity to improve health and reduce health inequities resonates with my own values. 

Q.  What is a day like in the life of Marjorie McGee?

A. I usually start my day with coffee and the New York Times. Then on to work. I try to focus on the mental tasks first thing, which for me usually means working on a research project. If it’s a gym day, I go to the gym; otherwise it’s a short lunch and back to the office for more work. Then I go home and have dinner with my partner. We try to have some down time together at the end of each day chatting and watching Netflix or something on TV. 

Q.  If you could change one thing in your community, what would you change?

A. People’s lives are complex. Because of that complexity we have to restrain our eagerness to simplify that complexity.

Q. If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

A. Japanese food. Itadakimasu!

Q. What is your ideal vacation?

A. I love quietness, nature, photography, culture, learning and exploration. Thus my ideal vacation is combining all of that, with periods for rest and reflection. Usually sea kayaking fills this desire. Or traveling abroad. The best vacation is when I am able to recharge my batteries, so to speak. 

Q&A with our Vice President of Finance, Jason Hilton

Q. How did you end up at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. Well, Nichole really wanted a colleague of mine for this position. As I was helping her vet this opportunity against her passions and desired skill set, she elected to pass. However, through the process it became clear to both of us that my skill set and abilities could add value to the organization. So I did some research on Nichole and the history of the organization and pursued the opportunity.

Q. Describe a day in the life of Jason.

A. I wake up, feed my labraweenie and drive to work. I spend my mornings reviewing and reconciling investment activity and reviewing our cash needs. Usually by 10:30 a.m. I am working on a problem with the building. The afternoons are dedicated to strategic process improvement and impact investing. Then I go home and feed my labraweenie.

Q. What are your goals for your work at NWHF? What do you hope to accomplish?

A. To help maximize the impact of Northwest Health Foundation by devising innovative impact investing strategies, improving managerial tools and contributing to the strategic vision of NWHF.

Q. What has been your favorite moment at NWHF so far?

A. (1) On a trip to Curry County getting to spend fireside time with colleagues discussing each other's personal and professional journeys. (2) My first day at NWHF we participated in a kickball tournament for Playworks. It was a great way to interact with the NWHF team and see how bad philanthropists are at athletic events. I was convinced that part of the decision to hire me may have been to help the kickball team.

Q. What was the hardest part of creating NWHF's 2015 budget?

A. Predicting the allocation of time and grant activity across the numerous donor advised programs we service on behalf of our funding partners.

Q. What is your best piece of financial advice?

A. Don't get lost in the woods. Keep focused on the big picture.

Q. What is your best piece of fishing advice?

A. Go fishing during the week, not on the weekends. I'm jealous of people who can do that regularly.

Q. What is your favorite part of the holidays? Least favorite?

A. My favorite part of the holidays is creating memories with loved ones. My least favorite is shopping.

Q. Do you have a New Years resolution for 2015?

A. To exercise more and take my daughters rafting.

Q&A with our Equity Committee Chair, Darleen Ortega

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Q. How did you get involved in Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I was recruited to the board. I am not sure how my name came up.

Q. What is your role on NWHF's board?

A. Currently I serve as chair of the Equity Committee, and also as a member of the Community Engagement Committee.

Q.  What have you learned so far from NWHF’s Learning Together & Connecting Communities project?

 

A.  It has been very inspiring to learn about some of the amazing work that is being done to address the needs of people with disabilities. Also, I think my thinking has deepened a lot about how important it is to treat persons with disabilities as whole persons and not just make their disability the focus. That sounds so obvious when you say it, but it is a common mistake that I have made myself.

Q.  How do you think the Learning Together & Connecting Communities project will change NWHF’s foundational practices?

A.  It is not enough to have the intention to fund more of the work of organizations who work with people with disabilities. Without relationships, we leave our own blind spots intact and cannot make decisions that are likely to have the most impact. We need to empower others who have been working for a long time on such issues to broaden their impact and find ways to collaborate. I think this project will help us be a more effective participant in work that has already been done. It will help us to ask better questions of others and ourselves. 

Q.  What has been your favorite moment at NWHF?

A.  There are so many.  I really doubted what I could contribute early on but have found work to do that is deeply meaningful to me. I still doubt how much I have contributed but am so grateful for the opportunity to work on equity issues in an organization that is really willing to ask hard questions and work on such issues. NWHF is often the only place I can ask certain questions or raise certain issues and not pay a heavy price, and have some hope of others engaging with those questions and issues.

Q.  How do you relate to NWHF’s mission and values?

A.  I have spent my career harboring deep concern for the overlooked experiences and needs of oppressed and underrepresented communities. Most of my work has been in the arena of law, but NWHF has deepened my awareness of the health impacts of the same disparities that have troubled me for my entire career.

Q.  What do you do for your day job?

A.  I am a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals.  I preside over a panel of three judges and we review all kinds of cases that come through the state courts and administrative agencies.

Q.  How do you define “health?”

A.  My idea of health includes the whole person: their physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being.  Health also includes all that is true about a given individual: his or her cultural context, family of origin, gender and sexual identity, and physical gifts and limitations. All of us need healing from time-to-time, but we don't need fixing. We do need understanding.

Q.  If you could change one thing in your community, what would you change?

A.  I would like for all of my communities to be more genuinely embracing of difference and to be constantly interested in hearing perspectives that are currently unrepresented or have been historically underpresented.

Q.  Would you rather be a deep sea diver or an astronaut?

A. An astronaut.

 

Q&A with our Grants Administrator, Fannie Black

Q. Describe a day in the life of Fannie.

A typical day starts with emails and phone calls: responding to inquiries about funding opportunities, resolving issues with our grantee portals or answering/asking questions related to specific grants. Even at times when we don’t have active grant cycles, there is still so much to do. Of course there are also meetings, and the ones I really enjoy are with our community partners, because that’s where I get to learn more about the great work our partners are doing. Those meetings also give me the opportunity to get to know the people doing that work and what inspires and motivates them.

These days I’ve been spending a lot of time on a data migration project. We’re moving our grants management system to a new platform. It’s probably not exciting for most people, but it’s been exciting for me to learn something new and create a more user friendly process for our staff and community partners.

There is also a lot of laughter thrown in there too throughout the day. We love to laugh in the office!

Q. What do you enjoy most about working at NWHF?

I really enjoy learning about our community partners and the work that they’re doing. Before coming to the Foundation, I really wasn’t aware of all the nonprofits in Oregon and SW Washington doing amazing work to improve the overall health of the region. There were some organizations I was familiar with, but I didn’t know what they actually did. It’s also great to see how those organizations partner with each other to make their visions a reality.

I also enjoy working with my colleagues here at the Foundation, as I said before, we love to laugh in the office. We don’t just get along here. The care and respect we have for each other shows every day in how we engage and work with each other. I think the teasing and joking around helps us keep a good balance of work and play in the office. Although our days are busy, we find time to throw some fun in the mix.

Q. How are you currently involved with the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative?

As the Grant Administrator, I handle a lot of the behind the scenes work to bring our grant opportunities to our partners. From building the grant application, to resolving any technical issues, to ensuring applications are complete, and finally generating grant agreements, I am involved before the grant cycle opens and well after it closes.

Q. If you could change any one thing in your community, what would you change?

My “community” is always expanding. As a multiracial individual, I am part of multiple communities of color, and as an Alaskan my geographic community has expanded to Oregon. Among all of these communities there are some unique issues each faces, but there are some overlapping issues, around social inequity for example, that I would like to see changed. Since coming to the Foundation, I’ve learned so much about the external factors that impact one’s health and the health of communities. One change I would like to see is for the focus of health to be more holistic and community-focused rather than just focused on an individual’s physical health. Our social and physical environment, families, education, access to healthy food options, access to parks, access to affordable healthcare... all of these things impact our health. When focusing just on the physical health of an individual, you miss the whole picture by not taking into account all of those other factors that we may not necessarily have control of.

Q. How do you relate to NWHF’s mission?

The Foundation’s holistic vision of health and support of community-led solutions definitely resonates with me personally. As a Yup’ik Eskimo, a lot of our traditional cultural practices promote and support a healthy lifestyle. Those practices are not only physical, but emotional, spiritual and environmental. For example, subsistence hunting touches on all of these aspects. You have to be physically fit to hunt for wild game. When you get your first catch it is celebrated and the food is shared with the community. You give thanks for a successful hunt, and you don’t hunt for more than what you need. When someone doesn’t have the ability or resources to hunt for their food, they are not forgotten but are supported by the community. I feel very fortunate to be a part of an organization that has a mission and values that align with my own.

Q. What was/is your favorite subject in school?

A. I love math. I looked forward to doing my math homework, and then I chose a college degree where I got to do math all the time. I don’t get to do much math in my graduate studies, but when I do I definitely look forward to it. In my 5th grade class we had these timed math tests: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with a bunch of problems. You had to see how many you could complete in the time allotted, and of those how many you got correct. It always came down to me and one other student.

I loved those quizzes! And I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I recreated them when I was in college, and I’ve recently thought about doing that again. I actually have a couple friends who are interested in taking them with me. It’ll be fun, and I play to win!

Q.  If you had a theme song, what would it be?

A. So I have a friend that loves to sing that “Take a load off Fannie” song to me almost every time we see each other. It’s kind of become my song now, so many people have sung it to me, and I just love that it inspires people to serenade me! So please, sing away!

I have to be honest though. I’ve never really paid attention to the lyrics, but I definitely connect with the chorus line. I don’t just love it because it has my name in it. We all feel the weight of things every day, in our personal and work lives, and sometimes it’s not easy to lighten that weight, or there may be factors that are out of your control. But, having colleagues or friends and family that can help lighten that load is so important. I feel fortunate that I have that kind of support here at the Foundation.

 

Q&A with our summer intern, Nadia Alradhi

Q. How did you end up at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I actually came to be at NWHF for the summer of 2014 because Nichole [NWHF's President] mentioned the internship program to my Mom (Darla Hilmoe, her executive assistant while at NAYA), who then relayed the message to me. I started volunteering at NAYA in 2010, and I love the sense of community that NAYA provides to the Native American population. That is where I met Nichole, who has provided me with outstanding support both professionally and personally throughout the years. Once I heard of the internship opportunity, I contacted Eddie and was so excited to hear that I would be spending my summer with NWHF!

Q. How do you relate to NWHF's mission?

A. NWHF strives to eliminate health inequities in areas including race/ethnicity, geography, and disability status. Personally, I have faced racial adversity throughout my life as a Native American and Saudi Arabian woman. Because of my experiences, I always strive to create an inclusive and accepting environment around me. These adversities have made me stronger, and I really enjoy finding the silver lining in spinning a negative experience into a positive force for change.

Q. What have you learned from your experience?

A.   I have learned many skills at NWHF, including how to approach a community I may not be familiar with and establishing a relationship, contacting key community members, learning how a site visit is conducted, and seeing firsthand how the grant review process works. I have also learned how to be a self-starter and recognize what important steps need to be taken to make an event successful.  On top of all of that, I have learned dozens of new acronyms! 

Q. If you could make one change in your community, what change would you make?

A.  I would eliminate all forms of “-isms” from my community. I feel like with heavy topics such as racism, sexism, and even “fat-ism” eliminated, positive change would spiral from it and an even more positive and inclusive community would be formed.

Q. What has been your favorite moment at NWHF?

A.  My favorite moment at NWHF actually happens every week. I really enjoy the quirky check-in questions that kick off the weekly staff meetings. The questions have ranged from “What fashion statement is uniquely yours?” to “What scent reminds you of your childhood?” It’s just a fun way to get to know the people at NWHF a bit better, and the answers always provide some laughs.

Q. What are you going to do next?

A.  After my summer with NWHF, I am resuming nursing school at Linfield Good-Samaritan School of Nursing. I will be graduated in August of 2015, and from there I hope to find a full-time job as a registered nurse, hopefully working in a labor and delivery department. I am also going to start a new volunteer experience at the International Center for Traditional Childbearing in a couple of weeks.

Q. If you could combine any two animals, what animals would you combine?

A. I would combine a salmon and an eagle, so that way the seagle (get it?) would be able to swim, live on land, and fly. Plus, both of these animals are noble and respected beings in Native American spirituality and culture.

 

Nadia will finish her internship with NWHF this month. We are so thankful for all of her help this summer, particularly on our Healthy Beginnings + Healthy Communities Initiative and Partners Investing in Nursing's Future. Good luck with your future endeavors, Nadia! Come back and visit!