"We are all born (in)."

'Together, we can erase the divide between “us” and “them” and celebrate schools and communities where all individuals are embraced and included.'

A mapping exercise from the 10th Annual All Born (In) Conference.

A mapping exercise from the 10th Annual All Born (In) Conference.

On April 23rd, 2016, Northwest Down Syndrome Association (NWDSA) and All Born (In) will host their 11th annual All Born (In) regional cross-disability conference. This conference—aimed at parents, educators, providers, self advocates and civic leaders—teaches best practices for embracing disability and reaching and teaching all people.

Three women pose for the camera in a crowded conference room. Two appear to have Down Syndrome; one is in a wheelchair.

NWDSA and All Born (In), sister organizations, believe in full inclusion and public understanding and acceptance. They are tireless advocates for inclusive education. For example, they offer a Kindergarten Transition Workshop to help parents of young children with developmental disabilities become advocates for their kids at school. NWDSA/ABI also led Think College Inclusion Oregon—a coalition of middle and high school students, families, education professionals and Portland State University faculty—to seek funding for an inclusive college program at PSU. They succeeded in obtaining a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement the program.

"Special education is supposed to be a service, not a place," said All Born (In) Executive Director Angela Jarvis-Holland in a recent article in The Portland Tribune

One woman speaking into a microphone, one woman signing.

The 2016 All Born (In) Conference will include more than 30 workshops on a range of topics, everything from "Behavior in the Early Years: Ideas for When the Going Gets Tough" to "Economic Freedom and Rights." There will also be two keynote speeches by Dr. Richard A. Villa and Keith Jones.

We at Northwest Health Foundation are particularly excited about Keith Jones' keynote "Soul Touching Work to Increase Access, Inclusion, and Empowerment at the Intersection of Race and Disability." Keith Jones is a disability rights activist, composer, producer and hip hop artist. He also identifies as a person with a disability. 

You can get tickets for All Born (In) Conference here.

Northwest Down Syndrome Association is a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partner.

At Open School, the Racial Achievement Gap is Zero

Two youth sitting on a table, looking over their shoulders at a poster with a poem in two languages.

Oregon's high school graduation rate of 74% is one of the worst in the nation. That number is even lower for students of color and students in families struggling to make ends meet. But some Oregon schools are leading the way in improving academic achievement, especially for students facing inequities. One of these is Open School.

Open School has closed the achievement gap between white students and students of color. Nationally, the gap is 25%. At Open School, the gap is zero.

Here's an example of what Open School does for its students:

In sixth grade, Guillermo exhibited multiple warning signs that suggested he might drop out early. Guillermo's counselor contacted his family and suggested that they enroll Guillermo in Open School East. They were hesitant at first, but eventually agreed. 

Several kids of various races and ethnicities lined up on a hillside.

After giving the counselor permission to give their information to Open School East, Open School's enrollment coordinator reached out to Guillermo’s family. In no time, a visit was scheduled where the coordinator, Guillermo and his parents could all sit down and talk in Guillermo’s home. 

At the end of 6th grade, Guillermo was scoring at the 3rd grade level in both reading and math, and he was receiving ELL supports as a non-native English speaker. His parents, both undocumented immigrants, were unfamiliar with the system and unsure of how to navigate and advocate for their child without drawing attention to their undocumented status. Their fears for the success of their child won out over their fears of deportation. The entire family attended an Open School enrollment night, and they enrolled Guillermo for the 2014 school year.

Teacher and student bending over a worksheet.

By the summer of 2015, after lots of hard work, constant communication and an abundance of mutual support, several things had changed for Guillermo and his parents: 

  • On his year-end benchmark tests in 2015, Guillermo met or exceeded grade level in both Math and English.
  • Guillermo no longer needs official ELL supports, having passed the English Language Proficiency Assessment with flying colors. 
  • Guillermo has even met the Smarter Balance benchmark, which is currently believed to be harder than other benchmarks. 
  • Guillermo’s parents have become models for family engagement and participation, and have become leaders in the Open School East community. They have spoken as parent-reps for Open School East to the Gresham-Barlow School District board of directors; volunteered to act as liaisons to similar new Open School East families, working from their own experiences to create an atmosphere of welcome, reassurance and safety for other undocumented families; and participated actively by leading efforts to start a culturally-specific Latino Families group. 

How does Open School do it? In many ways. They center their work around equity. They use restorative justice practices to resolve conflict. They take time for Art and Movement. They regularly engage with students' families. They listen to students and their families. And so much more! Guillermo is just one of many students whose futures have changed thanks to Open School. 

Open School is a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partner.

Check Out Our Partners in Willamette Week's 2015 Give!Guide

It's giving season again, folks! That means Willamette Week's Give!Guide is collecting donations now through midnight on December 31st, with a goal of raising $3,250,000 total for 143 deserving Portland nonprofits.

Several of those 143 nonprofits are Northwest Health Foundation's past and current funded partners. Check them out! We've included five below, and you can find more in our Grants Archive. These community organizations are doing amazing work for our region, and they have earned every bit of support you can offer them.


Adelante Mujeres provides holistic education and empowerment opportunities to low income Latina women and their families to ensure full participation and active leadership in the community. Their programs include child and adult education, youth leadership, business development, a farmers market and more! Most recently, NWHF awarded Adelante Mujeres a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund (KPCF) grant for ESPERE, a program aimed at addressing the issue of individual, familial and societal violence among Latino immigrant families.


Hacienda CDC is a Latino Community Development Corporation that strengthens families by providing affordable housing, homeownership support, economic advancement and educational opportunities. This year, Hacienda CDC opened the Portland Mercado, Portland's first Latino public market. A KPCF grant helped fund the establishment of this economic and cultural hub in SE Portland.  


Latino Network provides transformative opportunities, services and advocacy for the education, leadership and civic engagement of our youth, families and communities. NWHF supports Latino Network through a KPCF grant to Juntos Aprendemos, a program that prepares 3-5 year olds for success in kindergarten and equips parents with the skills and confidence to be their child’s first teachers.


REACH provides quality, affordable housing for individuals, families and communities to thrive. Recently, REACH completed an affordable housing project called Orchards at Orenco, which won recognition for being the largest multi-family Passive House building in the United States. KPCF funded REACH to investigate strategies and best practices to develop and implement a paid job training program for REACH residents. 


Village Gardens brings a spirit of hope to the people by growing and sharing healthy food, learning and teaching skills, and empowering community leadership. Village Gardens includes individual and family garden plots, employment opportunities for adults and teens, after-school and summer activities for children, homework clubs, an emerging livestock project, a Community Health Worker program, and a youth-run entrepreneurial business. KPCF is funding Village Gardens to launch a community driven network of food based micro enterprises.


Children's Institute Combats Chronic Absence

Adult and child high-fiving in a school hallway.

Chronic absence is a huge problem in Oregon. Last year, one out of every six students was chronically absent. That means almost 94,000 students missed at least one out of every ten school days. Data shows, these kids are more likely to perform poorly academically, as well as drop out before high school graduation.

This isn't okay, and the Children's Institute is determined that Oregon do better for its children. First step, spread awareness of the issue.

Because many schools don't even track chronic absence among their students, educators and families often don't realize how big an issue it is. That's why the Children's Institute worked with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to collect and release data about chronic absence in Oregon during the 2014-15 school year. As hoped, ODE's data has put the problem of chronic absence on the radar for school districts and communities across the state.

One of the key findings of their research was this: attendance habits in kindergarten can predict attendance habits and academic performance in high school. That brings us to step two of the Children's Institute's plan to combat chronic absence.

Young child with both hands raised.

The Children's Institute has partnered with two schools (Early Boyles Elementary and Yoncalla Elementary) to establish and run two Early Works preschool programs. By making attendance a priority early on, Early Works helps families and students establish good habits that will carry through kindergarten and beyond. As an example of the impact they're making, in 2014-15, students in the Earl Boyles preschool program averaged a 94 percent attendance rate.

Thanks to ODE, the Children's Institute and the Oregon schools that have already experimented with intervention programs, we have plenty of data and good examples to learn from. We know which groups of students have the highest rates of chronic absence (Native Americans, special education students, low-income students and Pacific Islanders), so we can focus our efforts accordingly. And we know that the best way to combat chronic absence is with early family engagement in preschool and kindergarten.

Learn more in the Children's Institute's Showing Up, Staying In report.

The Children's Institute is a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund partner. They have also received funding through Northwest Health Foundation Sponsorships and the President's Opportunity Fund.

"It's not what's wrong with people, but rather what happens to them."

Healthy Living Collaborative's first group of graduating Community Health Workers. Matti is the one in the red sweater.

Healthy Living Collaborative's first group of graduating Community Health Workers. Matti is the one in the red sweater.

Community Health Workers (CHWs) of the Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington (HLC) come from the communities they work in. A combination of health training and community understanding make HLC's CHWs ideal connectors for community members and health systems. They have the knowledge and resources people need, as well as the trust of the people they are working with.

Matti Neal is one of those Community Health Workers. She graduated from HLC's first round of CHW training, and she was one of only 25 CHWs in Washington state selected to participate in Healthy Generations' NEAR Expert Presenter and Coach Education cohort.

NEAR is the study of the intersection between neuroscience, epigenetics, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resilience, or, as Matti explained, "It's not what's wrong with people, but rather what happens to them." 

Here's what Matti learned at the training:

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences are a major determinant of homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, mental challenges, drug abuse, chronic disease and success in education.
  • The first step toward healing comes with awareness, education and understanding of the problem, which often requires a change in thinking.
  • The dynamics that lead to high ACEs scores can improve with the support of community resources, trusted relationships, thriving communities, respect, faith and culture.
  • And community organizing and policy advocacy can lead to improved health for an entire community.

Matti's greatest takeaway? Everyone can make a difference in someone's life, or even in the health of a whole neighborhood. Anyone can make a positive impact on community health and help to change policies. In addition, Matti's understanding of ACEs has led her to become more compassionate. She makes an effort to learn a person's story before jumping to conclusions. 

The NEAR training has inspired Matti to pursue further education in the area of mental illness, addiction and recovery counseling. It has also led HLC's CHWs to plan community education and events incorporating many of the learnings that Matti brought back to the community.

Latino Network Prepares Spanish-speaking Kids and Parents for Kindergarten

Group of kids sitting on the floor in front of a teacher.

After multi-racial students, Latino and Hispanic students are Oregon public schools' fastest growing demographic. In 2014, 22.4% of students enrolling in Oregon schools identified as Hispanic/Latino, compared to 17.25% in 2008. With many of these students coming from Spanish-speaking households, additional support is integral to the academic success of these students.

While Oregon has taken big steps toward helping these kids with recent English Language Learner (ELL) legislation and efforts to increase the number of bilingual educators in schools, some nonprofits are stepping in before kids even start school. One of these is Latino Network.

Young kids standing in a line, waving their arms around.

Spanish-speaking children, ages three to five, in Latino Network's Juntos Aprendemos (Together We Learn) program learn early numeracy and literacy skills, how to behave in a classroom setting, how to interact with peers, and Latino culture and heritage. Spanish-speaking guardians learn how to teach numeracy and literacy, positive communication skills, how to navigate the U.S. educational system, and how to be an advocate for their child in and out of school.

Juntos Aprendemos graduates are better at learning reading and engage more positively with their peers when they start school. In addition, the guardians of these students are more involved in their children's schooling, where before they might be unsure how to show up for their children in a majority English-speaking school system.

Father sitting in a classroom with two children, playing with a puzzle.

This year Latino Network is celebrating Juntos Aprendemos' 15th year! "Juntos Aprendemos was created in 2000 by a group of Latino parents and community members who wanted to ensure Latino children were entering kindergarten prepared to succeed." Even more exciting, Juntos Aprendemos is expanding into a fourth school district this fall and is now operating in seven schools. 

Juntos Aprendemos is funded in part by the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation.

Highlands Neighborhood Association Hosts Awesome Advocacy Training

Several participants stand in a circle around blue tape and pieces of paper laid out on the floor.

Highlands Neighborhood Association partnered with Habitat for Humanity to host a two-day Participatory Leadership & Advocacy Training at the Washington state capitol in June.

Representatives from 20 organizations attended, including a few of our Southwest Washington partners. Experts coached participants on the importance of community leadership and inclusion, and shared how to plan well-organized strategies and approach legislators for effective policy change. 

All we can say is, WOW! Props to Highlands Neighborhood Association. We love it when our community partners find ways to share skills with other organizations in their region. And we love it even more when they are building power for advocacy, leadership, organizing and policy change! This is how we will achieve better health for everyone in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Highlands Neighborhood Association is the lead organization for Highlands Grows and Shares, an Organizing Grant Community funded by our Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative.

Adelante Mujeres Nourishes the Community

In Washington County, research shows the health outcomes for Latinos are significantly worse than those of other ethnic backgrounds. The concentrated poverty for immigrant farmers, challenges of adapting to a new culture and poor urban planning have all added to the poor health of Washington County’s Latino population. However, it is also evident that lifestyle choices have also played a large role. For Adelante Mujeres, a Forest Grove, Oregon-based nonprofit, the solution lies in holistic education about health, food, and nutrition to inspire positive lifestyle changes.

“Nourish the Community,” one of Adelante Mujeres’ newest initiatives, aims to incorporate nutrition education into their already established programs such as their Adult Education, Chicas, and Early Education programs. Nourish the Community was funded with a $200,000 Kaiser Permanente Community Fund grant in 2011. “This is an initiative where the values of health, wellness and nutrition are disseminated throughout all of the programs,” said Kaely Summers, Adelante Mujeres’ Farm Coordinator.

“It’s been encouraging and helpful to have the support of NWHF and Kaiser for organizational capacity. Now we have the time to planning this all out the best way possible.”

Adelante Mujeres focuses on education and access, and “one way of doing this is the farmers market,” said Summers, “We have this resource here that we’re bring all of this great food and local fruits and veggies and organic food to the people of forest grove and the greater community. Through our matching program, people come with food stamps or with their WIC checks and can get that same amount matched up to 10 dollars a week. Essentially if they swipe their card for 10 dollars they’ll get 20 dollars in total!”

Adelante also focuses on microenterprise. “We have a microenterprise goal so that our producers, our farmers, as well as food producers like the tamale makers are now contributing to the community as producers of a health resource,” said Summers, “Obviously if people are financially sound they can make healthier choices in their life.”

Finally, Adelante focuses on community advocacy. “We want our participants to be more politically, and civically active in the community and what they’re doing.” said Summers, “we want them to learn things in the walking club and share them with their neighbors and extended families.” 

Adelante acknowledges that the Forest Grove community represents many different levels of health and wellness. “Some people are struggling with diabetes and don’t know a carrot from a radish, and others are farmers who are producing kale and eating that, and are walking every day,” said Summers.

“We want to meet people where they are and work with them so they not only become healthy themselves in the choices that they make, but so they can contribute back into the community.”


This is the story of Alder Elementary School, the first “Dreamer School” in the nation as part of an innovative collaboration between Friends of the Children and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Oregon. The project serves some of the community’s most vulnerable youth and encourages higher education beginning at a young age. Through a $50,000 implementation grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund, the project builds on the success of the “I Have a Dream” foundation, and will expand the number of students served from 300 to 3,000 per year over the next decade.

Improving Health for Iraqi Refugees

When calculating the costs of war, we often neglect the health and economic costs of traumatized immigrants coming to the U.S. as refugees from violent, and prolonged, conflicts in places such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Despite being tens of thousands of miles from the war zone, Oregon’s Iraqi population is still struggling with the resonating consequences of violence and displacement. Many who sought refuge and asylum in the United States from the first Iraq war continue to deal with lingering trauma - more than twenty years after immigration.

Research shows that refugees from wars and civil conflicts are particularly vulnerable to ill health. The Iraqi Society of Oregon (ISO) is dedicated to helping immigrants deal with the trauma they experienced in their home country, the culture shock of adapting to new lifestyles and systems, and economic and social isolation they still experience today. These challenges have been identified as “triple factors” of trauma that make so many immigrants vulnerable to ill health.

In December 2011, the Iraqi Society of Oregon received a $50,000 capacity-building grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund to gain social, psychological, and medical support for Iraqi immigrants. “This project will work on researching, educating, and healing the immigrants and refugees so they gain life skills for a positive health attitude and create a change to seek a healthy lifestyle,” said Baher Butti, executive director.

“Many traumas take place, and most are not dealt with properly.”

Even after 20 years, the Iraqi population of Oregon still experiences high levels of poverty, poor health, and isolation, much of it a result of the different phases of loss that they went through in the refugee process. “The local Iraqi community lives in isolation,” Butti says.  “Most arrived as early as the 1990s, after the first Gulf War.”

Baher Butti was a practicing psychiatrist in Iraq until he fled from the most recent war in 2006. He was exiled in Jordan when Dr. David Kinzie, a professor of psychiatry at OHSU, invited him to a world conference to speak about the psychological trauma. Dr. Kinzie ultimately helped him find asylum in the U.S.

Through the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund, the Iraqi Society, the Center for Intercultural Organization, and the Beaverton Mayor’s Office are now working collaboratively to respond to the Iraqi population’s needs by coordinating culturally-specific services, mental health, city government, and schools. This solution moves Iraqi immigrant “upstream” by bringing together social and economic integration with a holistic mental health approach.

“Health inequities are reflected in unjust distribution of resources, power, and opportunities that lead to poor health outcomes for the refugees and immigrants,” said Butti, “However, this project is solution oriented, and aims to achieve multicultural health equity through community members, community organization, and policy and system change.”

“There is an honest desire from the larger community to reach out to new communities, especially refugees and immigrants.”

While the wider community will now have the opportunity to connect with the Iraqi community, Butti says the newcomers have a responsibility too.

“Inclusiveness is a mutual process where people provide support and embrace the newcomers to facilitate their healing,” said Butti, adding, “and the new comers will contribute with their values, and productivity, and even historical background to the new community.”

Health Grants for a Financial Institution



The answer makes sense once you know more about the nonprofit financial institution, Innovative Changes, and the grant maker, which in this case is the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund.

Kaiser Permanente Community Fund (KPCF) is a partnership between Kaiser Permanente Northwest and Northwest Health Foundation. The fund invests grantmaking dollars in the places “where health begins” —projects and organizations whose work addresses the social determinants of health.

As the staff at Innovative Changes can tell you, financial issues can very often be connected directly to health. Research shows a strong correlation between high income and good health. Likewise, financial struggles often lead to a downward spiral culminating in emergency rooms, shelters, hospitals, or even the streets.

People in financial crisis often turn to payday loans, which almost always exacerbate the situation.  A $300 car repair can mean that a single mom with a stable job cannot get her children to daycare or herself to work. This can result in lost wages, and an increase in family stress. If monthly bills aren’t paid, a payday loan can push her into an unsustainable cycle of debt. Her credit and rental history are damaged, and her struggles only get worse.

“We know that financial stress can have serious health effects on an individual and also on family members,” says Victor Merced, a member of the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund advisory board.

Innovative Changes offers an alternative to predatory payday loans by providing comprehensive financial education, small dollar, short-term consumer loans, and credit building opportunities to help people manage short-term financial needs in order to achieve and maintain financial and household stability. 

“This initiative helps ensure that there is an affordable and socially responsible alternative to the provision of predatory financial products and services,” said Mary Edmeades, Vice President and Manager at Albina Community Bank. “The integrated approach to partnerships with the mainstream financial industry, other social service providers and most importantly, the clients themselves, is a collaborative model that promotes innovation, accountability and sustainability.” 

Miriam and José (pictured) came to the U.S. 32 years ago as they fled the civil war in their native El Salvador, and are two appreciative clients of Innovative Changes. Their story demonstrates the strong network of community partnerships developed by the nonprofit. In this case, Innovative Changes worked with two of their partners, Proud Ground, and the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA).

“We’re glad we came here and got help,” José said.

Jose works as a pastor associate and deacon at a Catholic church and works extensively with the church’s Hispanic community.

“One of my goals is to be a better administrator of my money, in order to help the community manage their money better as well.”

When asked to comment about the support they received from the nonprofit, Jose explained that “they made us feel secure.”

Miriam added, “This is real.”

“Innovative Changes helped us build our credit,” José said.

“They gave us hope for the future.”