Immigrant and Refugee Communities in Oregon Agree on At Least Two Things

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Immigrant and Refugee Engage Project.

irco oregon state capital

[Image description: Members of the Multiethnic Advisory Group hold an "Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization" banner on the steps of the Oregon state capitol.]

The immigrant and refugee population in Oregon is made up of incredibly diverse communities with varied opinions, concerns and needs. And yet, for the most part, they can all agree on at least two things: their children and families’ health is of utmost importance, and immigrants and refugees can make a bigger impact working together.

In 2015, Africa House, Asian Family Center and the Slavic Network of Oregon were all working separately from one another on individual Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities community organizing projects. Africa House was focused on maternal health; Asian Family Center was interested in developing an early life task force; and the Slavic Network of Oregon was pursuing 501c3 status. They were all also working with Portland State University and Coalition of Communities of Color to collect data and conduct assessments of their communities. In the end they decided if the community assessments showed that their communities had concerns in common, they would join together.

It turned out they had three issues in common: The African, Asian Pacific Islander and Slavic communities all wanted to improve early childhood health. They all wanted to work on kindergarten readiness. And they all liked the Community Health Worker model.

The decision to partner led to the formation of the Multiethnic Advisory Group (MAG). The MAG includes representatives from, not just Africa House, Asian Family Center and the Slavic Network of Oregon, but also African Women’s Coalition, Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, Northwest Somali Community Organization, Oregon Bhutanese Community Organization, Slavic Community Center of NW, Togo Community Organization of Oregon and Zomi Association of U.S.

Despite having a vision of healthy childhoods in common, the members of the MAG all come from very different places with different customs and values. The most difficult obstacle for the MAG to overcome has been making sure everyone gets heard and feels included in decisions. For this reason, the group created community agreements, one of which is that all decisions must be made by consensus.

irco staff with tina kotek

[Image description: Four Multiethnic Advisory Group members stand and smile in an office with Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek.]

One of the first actions the MAG agreed on was to participate in a lobby day in Oregon’s state capitol. For most of the MAG members, the lobby day was their first experience participating in U.S. government. Many came from countries where they could not express their opinions about, or participate in, the government. So, to them, the idea of meeting with elected officials and voicing their concerns was both surprising and scary. However, after practicing ahead of time, dividing into smaller groups and spending time with at least two government officials each, the MAG members soon settled into sharing their stories.   

The MAG members left lobby day feeling empowered and excited. They quickly decided that they want to learn more about policy advocacy and are now planning a training for exactly that purpose. They’re also planning on participating in a lobby day during the 2017 legislative session. Together, they know they can voice their communities’ concerns and improve childhood health and kindergarten readiness for all immigrant and refugee children.

Warm Springs Youth Build Power for Political Participation

Photo courtesy of the Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page. Photo credit to Jayson Smith.

Photo courtesy of the Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page. Photo credit to Jayson Smith.

[Image description: A candidate with a long braid and glasses speaks into a standing microphone. Three candidates sit behind.]

At the beginning of 2016, Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition and the Warm Springs Youth Council formed a partnership around voter education for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Their first project was a candidate forum held in Warm Springs, Oregon on March 7th, 2016.

This forum gave local Tribal Council candidates running for the upcoming Warm Springs Tribal Council elections an opportunity to interact with the community and share their strengths, concerns and positions on issues the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs is facing. It also served to highlight the upcoming Bureau of Indian Affairs Secretarial Election and allowed tribal members, as well as the Warm Springs Youth Council, to raise and discuss thoughts about issues that would be on the Secretarial Election ballot. These included various proposed changes to the make-up of the Tribal Council and the process of electing Tribal Council members, as well as a proposed change to lower the voting age to 18.

Photo courtesy of Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page.

[Image description: Six Warm Springs Youth Council members, wearing black t-shirts that read "BUILD COMMUNITY," pose around a Warm Springs Youth Council banner.]

In preparation for the forum, the Warm Springs Youth Council developed questions that incorporated the Secretarial Election’s proposed changes, history of the tribe, education and youth concerns. The forum was organized and hosted by the Youth Council with support from Let's Talk Diversity Coalition, Warm Springs Prevention Team and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. It was the first candidate forum to be organized in the history of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Twenty-four hours before the event, the Youth Council contacted Let's Talk Diversity Coalition, requesting us to provide a sign language interpreter for the event. Thanks to regional and local connections, we were able to locate an interpreter for the event and pay him for his services. It's definitely worthwhile to build those relationships before they're needed! The community expressed appreciation of the interpretation services, not to mention the opportunity to hear from Tribal Council candidates.

Let's Talk Diversity Coalition continues to partner with the Warm Springs Youth Council and looks forward to the upcoming voter education collaborations, and to building power with our young leaders!

Get out the Latinx Vote!

A story from Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Healthy CAPACES.

Acción Política PCUNista, PCUN's electoral organizing arm and a partner in the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Healthy CAPACES, was formed in 1998 when a group of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noreste (PCUN) members joined together to campaign for naming Woodburn's new high school after César Chávez. Although the school board voted against the name, they did agree to observe March 31st, César E. Chávez Day, throughout the school district. After seeing the impact their involvement had, the PCUN members decided to create Voz Hispana Causa Chavista, which was rebranded as Acción Política PCUNista in 2014. Since rebranding, APP has supported driver cards in Oregon and was instrumental in helping pass the 2015 Woodburn School Bond.

As Oregon's only operating Latino 501(c)(4) organization, APP works to engage the Latinx community in the voting process. APP's work includes hosting candidate forums, Latinx voter education, voter ID and registration, canvassing, endorsing candidates, political mailing, phone banking and community organizing.

Teresa Alonso Leon

Teresa Alonso Leon

[Image description: A Latina woman wearing a black blazer and red lipstick poses in front of a tree trunk and ground covered with yellow leaves.]

This year APP endorsed and is supporting Teresa Alonso Leon's campaign for State Representative of House District 22. Teresa Alonso Leon was raised in Woodburn, so she's experienced the needs of the community. She comes from a working family and knows firsthand what it is like to confront and overcome barriers. Teresa is also the GED administrator for the state of Oregon and has served on the Woodburn City Council for four years. She's committed to improving the education system for children and adults, advocating for a more transparent government, and creating better paying jobs.

If elected, Teresa will be the first Latinx and immigrant woman to represent one of Oregon's most diverse counties. Marion County is 25% Latino/Hispanic. Woodburn is 56% Latino/Hispanic. But this large Latinx community is not reflected on school boards, city councils or at the state level. By campaigning for Teresa, APP campaigns for an incredible leader who represents the Latinx community and acts as a role model for children with similar backgrounds and experiences.

Acción Política PCUNista

Acción Política PCUNista

[Image description: A group of young Latinxs pose and smile in front of a colorful mural depicting Latinx farmworkers rallying for justice.]

To support Teresa's campaign, APP hosted her canvas kickoff on July 2nd at PCUN. We spent hours on the phone inviting community members to this event. On the day of the event, we knocked on over 1,000 doors to spread the news about Teresa. Since the event, we've spent our time canvassing and talking to community members about their vision for Marion county. We've given presentations to diverse groups at college and high schools about the work APP is doing and Teresa's campaign. You'll also find us at most local events getting out the Latinx vote!

Upcoming Events:

La Fiesta Mexicana, Woodburn, August 5th-8th

Urban Art Fest, Salem, August 6th

Get Involved:

Remember, voting is power and we should all have a say in the decisions that affect our communities. Let's stand up and unite for the people!

If you are interested in participating or volunteering with APP, please contact appinfo@pcun.org

Like us on Facebook.

Keeping Vancouver Housed

Oregon and Southwest Washington are in the midst of a housing crisis. Over the last few years, the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area has been flooded with out-of-state movers. Market forces, including limited housing supply and stagnant wages, are making it hard for people to secure safe and affordable homes. Demand is so high, at the end of 2015 only 2.4% of rentals were vacant, and many people struggling to make ends meet were pushed out of their homes. Cities and community organizations endeavor to enact solutions to this problem. In Vancouver, a community has come together to build power and take concrete steps toward keeping people housed.

SUPPORTERS OF AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LEVY TESTIFY IN FRONT OF VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL ON JUNE 20, 2016.

SUPPORTERS OF AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LEVY TESTIFY IN FRONT OF VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL ON JUNE 20, 2016.

[Image description: Three people dressed in red sit at a table facing Vancouver's City Council. The city councilors are seated at a long, semicircular desk, with each person's name on a plaque mounted in front of them.]

At the end of 2014, Courtyard Village, an apartment complex in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood, which is known for housing people from vulnerable communities, was sold to a new owner. Tenants in the 151-unit complex began receiving 20-day notices to vacate. Families, singles, couples and seniors found themselves facing a housing crisis during the holiday season.

Also at the end of 2014, twenty-six Southwest Washington residents participated in Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington’s first Community Health Worker training program. Before even graduating the program, these community leaders made a huge impact in the lives of the people evicted from Rose Village, and they’ve continued to make an impact on the entire community through their advocacy for affordable housing.

When the 20-day notices to vacate were issued, many of Courtyard Village’s tenants didn’t even know the apartment complex had been sold. The Community Health Workers in training, some of whom lived in the Rose Village neighborhood, pulled together with Washington Elementary School and the Council for the Homeless to educate tenants about what was happening and connect them to resources. This included a community meeting where they learned about assistance finding housing, paying moving costs and support being offered by a neighboring church (Vancouver First United Methodist). It also included Community Health Workers going door to door to make sure every tenant, including those who had chronic conditions and no means of transportation, received the information they needed. Thanks to these efforts, 101 of the 151 Courtyard Village households contacted partners for assistance. The community stepped up with fundraising, too. The Vancouver community raised $102,000 to help households pay expenses associated with moving. There was a “fun run” and donations from individuals and businesses. In addition, many congregations held special offerings. This community-driven assistance helped 76 of the 101 households, including 89 children, secure new homes.

After responding to the Courtyard Village crisis and graduating from their training program in February 2015, the Community Health Workers were determined to prevent similar situations from happening again in the future. That meant policy change.

On September 14, 2015, Community Health Workers, Rose Village residents and others testified at a City of Vancouver hearing about a proposal for renter protections. Community Health Worker Dominique Horn testified as a Rose Village community member and Courtyard Village neighbor: “It doesn’t just affect them. It affects the whole community. It affects the school. It affects my children. It affects everyone. And there is nowhere for them to go.”

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER DOMINIQUE HORN TESTIFYING AT THE SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2015 VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL MEETING. CLICK ON THE IMAGE AND FAST FORWARD TO 2:05 TO LISTEN TO DOMINIQUE'S POWERFUL TESTIMONY.

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER DOMINIQUE HORN TESTIFYING AT THE SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2015 VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL MEETING. CLICK ON THE IMAGE AND FAST FORWARD TO 2:05 TO LISTEN TO DOMINIQUE'S POWERFUL TESTIMONY.

[Image description: Screenshot of a woman speaking into a microphone, people seated behind her. A caption at the bottom of the screen reads "Vancouver City Council, 9/14/15."]

After the hearing, Vancouver’s City Council approved three ordinances protecting vulnerable renters: one requiring landlords who wish to raise a tenant’s rent by ten percent or more to give a 45-day written notice of rent increase, one requiring landlords who own five or more rental units to give at least 60-days notice to vacate, and one preventing landlords from refusing to rent to a tenant based on a tenant’s source of income. This was a huge win for Community Health Workers, Rose Village tenants and the Vancouver community as a whole, but it still didn’t solve the problem of the lack of affordable housing.

That brings us to this week. Once again, on June 20, 2016, Vancouver residents packed the City Council Chambers, many of them wearing red. They wore red to show their support for an affordable housing levy. At a rate of 36 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, the levy would generate $6 million annually for seven years to be put toward low-income rental housing and homelessness prevention. Thanks to the turnout and testimony, City Council voted to add the levy to the November ballot.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HEALTHY LIVING COLLABORATIVE OF SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON KACHINA INMAN PRESENTS A CHECK TO THE  BRING VANCOUVER HOME  CAMPAIGN.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HEALTHY LIVING COLLABORATIVE OF SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON KACHINA INMAN PRESENTS A CHECK TO THE BRING VANCOUVER HOME CAMPAIGN.

[Image description: Two women stand in front of a room full of people seated at tables covered with purple tablecloths. One of the women holds a large check. More people stand in front of a wall draped in purple and red.]

Policy measure by policy measure, Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington and its many partners work toward keeping community members in their homes. With 501(c)4 funding from Northwest Health Foundation's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities initiative, Healthy Living Collaborative and its partners will be able to contribute dollars to a political campaign for the first time this year: the non-partisan campaign Bring Vancouver Home. They will continue to advocate for families and children in Southwest Washington to keep them housed and healthy.

Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington is the lead organization for Healthy Communities, Healthy Futures, a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative.

Stronger When We Are Together: APANO's VOTE Network

A story from Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative APANO Voter Organizing, Training & Empowerment (VOTE) Network.

January 2016 - on one of the first Saturday’s of the new year, a nondescript corner office building on 82nd Ave in Southeast Portland was filled with activity and livelihood. Walking or driving along 82nd Ave, one does not easily notice the brick and mortar building where the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) is based. It’s tucked away inside the Wing Ming Plaza, across from Wing Ming Herbs and above Yan Zi Lou Chinese restaurant. The space begins to fill as community leaders from Eugene, Salem, Beaverton, Corvallis and neighborhoods around Portland gather around a U-shaped table for the APANO’s VOTE Network meeting. It's not often that Asian and Pacific Islander (API) leaders and organizations come together in this fashion to discuss how our communities are going to become more civically involved, not only in this critical election year, but for a longterm movement.

Several adults sit around a circle of tables. A tablecloth reads "APANO." Red lanterns hang from the ceiling. There are banners, flags, signs, etc. with Chinese characters along the back wall.

[Image description: Several adults sit around a circle of tables. A tablecloth reads "APANO." Red lanterns hang from the ceiling. There are banners, flags, signs, etc. with Chinese characters along the back wall.]

On this day, 16 leaders from 13 different organizations shared their thoughts and ideas. From the long established Chinese American Citizen’s Alliance (CACA) that is one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations, to the Micronesian Islander Community (MIC) that was founded to serve the needs of Oregon’s Micronesians, these groups have a common vision: to promote justice and civil rights and raise the visibility of APIs in Oregon. Our state’s 250,000 individuals who identify as API share a common fate. Our communities have made rich contributions to the economy, business, labor, culture and the fabric of this state. However, our accomplishments have not been met without hardship, discrimination, exclusion and imprisonment. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Japanese internment camps during World War 2, to present day examples where anti-immigrant sentiments and values live on, we continue to fight for justice and recognition. On that Saturday morning, we talked about our rich and powerful histories, but also real barriers to our participation due to language, cultural barriers and restrictions. Leaders discussed the importance of civic engagement and the value it brings to our communities.

A large GROUP OF ADULTS POSE IN FRONT OF A DISPLAY OF FLAGS, RED LANTERNS, BANNERS WITH CHINESE CHARACTERS, A framed ILLUSTRATION OF A MAN WITH A LONG WHITE BEARD.

[Image description: A large group of adults pose in front of a display of flags, red lanterns, banners with Chinese characters, a framed illustration of a man with a long white beard.]

The VOTE Network, which stands for Voter Organizing, Training and Empowerment, is newly formed in 2016, with thanks to Northwest Health Foundation’s Healthy Beginnings + Healthy Communities Initiative. The Network brings leaders from diverse Asian American, immigrant and Pacific Islander communities to increase participation in civic engagement and help build the capacity of organizations. APANO’s civic engagement program recognizes that voting builds awareness about our communities concerns and their power to make positive changes. Meaningful civic engagement means making voting relevant by supporting voter registration, voter education and Get Out The Vote in ways that connect the issues to the concerns in our communities. APANO does this by creating spaces to dialogue with candidates in selected races, by analyzing and endorsing priority ballot measures we believe have the biggest impact on Asian and Pacific Islanders, and building the power of our communities to impact political decisions through voter education and turnout.

Our growing list of VOTE Network Organizations:

  • Chinese American Citizen’s Alliance

  • Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Associations

  • Philippine American Chamber of Commerce  

  • Japanese American Citizen’s Alliance

  • Bhutanese Community

  • Korean American Community of Oregon

  • Living Islands

  • Micronesian Islander Community

  • COFA Alliance National Network

  • Portland Lee’s Association

  • Zomi Association US

  • DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon

  • Asian Council of Springfield and Eugene

  • PAC Alliance

  • Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs

  • Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce

  • Oregon Minority Lawyers Association

"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.

BRAVE Leaders Build Power for Reproductive Justice

Story submitted by Western States Center

Emily Lai flashing the peace sign. Photo courtesy of Momentum Alliance.

Western States Center’s We are BRAVE project supports leaders of color to advance policy and create cultural change to improve communities of color’s access to reproductive healthcare.

The success of BRAVE is highlighted by the personal and professional development of Emily Lai. A BRAVE leader, Emily began her reproductive justice journey as part of We are Brave’s 2015 cohort.

“Honestly, the only reason I am able to do reproductive justice work in Oregon is because of BRAVE,” said Emily. “The dedicated staff at Western States Center has tirelessly and lovingly cultivated a sacred space for communities of color to come together to articulate our experiences with injustices and our visions for justice. BRAVE is a place for us to heal, to bond, and to build our individual and collective strength to advocate for ourselves and reproductive justice."

BRAVE provided the space for Emily to align her commitment to social justice and young people, and her own personal self-determination for reproductive autonomy as a young person. Currently, Emily works with Momentum Alliance as a Reproductive Justice Camp Coordinator where she lives and practices reproductive justice values and leadership with young people. Her professional development parallels BRAVE’s theory of change. Lai often expresses how her participation in BRAVE helped shape her intersection lens for how and whom she works with; the process for how to apply and integrate reproductive justice values; and strength to voice the importance of young people’s role in their own reproductive autonomy. 

"I work for a youth-led social justice nonprofit called Momentum Alliance. This year, at our fundraiser, one of our sponsors withdrew their sponsorship as soon as they found out that we were voicing our support for abortion access at our fundraiser. I was a little intimidated and discouraged from publicly and unequivocally supporting abortion access. But my organization rallied behind me, and I believe that BRAVE gave our organization the courage—the BRAVEry, if you will—to unapologetically stand up for abortion access."

The BRAVE project creates the conditions to leverage leadership through the introduction of reproductive justice core concepts. BRAVE leaders connect those concepts to policy and cultural change to achieve positive health outcomes for families. We realize that communities that respect the dignity and self-determination of all people, particularly young people, are integral to positive early life and childhood development.

Western States Center and Momentum Alliance are both Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners. Momentum Alliance is also the lead organization of a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative.

Cottage Grove Bans Smoking in Parks

A hot air balloon reflected in a pond.

According to a survey commissioned by Be Your Best Cottage Grove (a cross-sector coalition of community partners), residents of Cottage Grove, OR see drug and alcohol addictions as one of their greatest obstacles to becoming a healthy, vibrant community. Recently, this small, rural city in Lane County took steps to surmount that obstacle.

On November 9, 2015, the Cottage Grove City Council voted to ban smoking in parks. This ban includes not only paper cigarettes, but e-cigarettes and other inhalant deliver systems. By passing this law, Cottage Grove hopes to help people quit smoking and prevent kids from starting smoking by creating supportive, smoke-free environments and changing social norms.

Be Your Best used several different tactics to help get this law passed. They sent a letter of support for policies that prevent kids from becoming addicted to nicotine to the Cottage Grove City Council. Be Your Best members reached out to City Councilors directly to express support, and to community members to educate them about the policy and ask them to reach out to the City Council, too. They also testified at the City Council meeting.

Be Your Best Cottage Grove uses a collective impact approach to improve community health. Be Your Best partners include: United Way of Lane County, South Lane School District, PeaceHealth, Lane County Public Health, South Lane Mental Health, The Child Center, Family Relief Nursery, Sustainable Cottage Grove, Looking Glass Community Services, Parent Partnership and other businesses, civic partners and faith-based organizations.

A child flailing her arms in a park.

By surveying and reaching out to community members, Be Your Best makes sure that the work they are doing reflects the community's wants and needs. By participating in policy advocacy, Be Your Best increases chances that change will be made in a broader and more-permanent way.

Be Your Best Cottage Grove is a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Organizing Grant partner.

Native Community Wins Indigenous People's Day For Portland

Teens gathered around a drum at A Youth Gathering of Native Americans.

Teens gathered around a drum at A Youth Gathering of Native Americans.

For too long, the U.S. federal government has recognized Columbus Day as a national holiday. Fortunately, thanks to the hard work and advocacy efforts of Native community leaders, including our friends and community partners at the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), Portland, OR is one city that does not celebrate Columbus Day anymore.

Columbus Day has been observed as the day that Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Americas. For many, that isn't something that deserves celebrating. Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas marked the beginning of a painful period for indigenous people--a period that included enslavement, colonization, displacement and the needless deaths of thousands of people, the effects of which are still felt today. That is why many Natives and their allies have set about reclaiming this holiday.

On October 7, 2015, Native community members testified before the Portland City Council; and the Portland City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution, declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous People's Day.

"This generation gets to grow up knowing the truth," said Klamath/Leech Lake Ojibway actor Dyami Thomas, who attended NAYA College Academy.

Thank you and congratulations to NAYA, the Grand Ronde Tribe and the other Native leaders who successfully ushered this resolution through City Council!

The Native American Youth and Family Center has received funding through the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation, NWHF's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative, Sponsorships, the President's Opportunity Fund and Learning Together, Connecting Communities.

Environmental Justice, For Youth, By Youth

A snapshot from the first Youth Environmental Justice Alliance meeting.

A snapshot from the first Youth Environmental Justice Alliance meeting.

At Northwest Health Foundation, we believe change should be led by the people who are most affected by it. So when we found out about OPAL Environmental Justice's Youth Environmental Justice Alliance (YEJA), we were pretty excited. No one will be more affected by environmental changes than today's youth.

YEJA was created, and is led by, youth. It was created so that youth can learn about environmental justice issues and build power to do something about them. This includes, among other activities, political education workshops and campaign organizing.

Youth participating in a role playing activity on organizing.

Youth participating in a role playing activity on organizing.

Even better, the high-schoolers who created YEJA created it to be inclusive, and to develop low-income youth and youth of color in particular. These are groups that often experience worse health as a result of toxic environments.

"Environmental justice is about being involved in decisions that affect you and feeling comfortable and secure in any environment where we live, work or go to school," wrote Ailani Palacios, a 19-year-old OPAL intern and YEJA member, in a blog entry. She also wrote, "Youth are the most powerful tool in any movement."

We can't wait to see what this youth group accomplishes!

YEJA received a NWHF mini-grant in July 2015. OPAL Environmental Justice was one of our partners in the 2014-2015 Learning Together, Connecting Communities cohort.

Community Alliance of Tenants Declares a Renter State of Emergency

Supporters at the September 15th Renter State of Emergency press conference.

Supporters at the September 15th Renter State of Emergency press conference.

Northwest Health Foundation applauds Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) for declaring a Renter State of Emergency in Oregon, and in particular the Portland metro area.

Too many Oregonians have been unfairly evicted or forced to move due to drastic rent increases. Everyone deserves a safe, stable and affordable place to live, but right now, that isn't possible for hundreds of families and individuals.

CAT has called for a moratorium or suspension of no-cause terminations for one year, and a longer notice period for rent increases over 5%. "30-days’ notice is not enough, either to move quickly or absorb a shocking rent increase, especially in today’s disaster-like housing crisis."

NWHF staff pose with the Renter State of Emergency placard.

NWHF staff pose with the Renter State of Emergency placard.

As part of the campaign, CAT is collecting renter SOS stories on a Tumblr account. They also invite supporters to use the hashtags #rentersos and #RenterStateofEmergency on social media and/or take a photo with a Renter State of Emergency placard.

How can you help? Share your renter SOS story here. Donate to the campaign here. Download the placard here. Or, if you're a landlord, sign the Landlord Pledge here.

NWHF supports the Renter State of Emergency campaign. In addition, NWHF has funded CAT through Sponsorships and the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation.

"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.

Oregon's COFA Islanders are this close to winning health care coverage

"EMERGENCY" sign.

A bill passed during the 2015 Legislative Session may finally lead to health coverage for many of Oregon's Pacific Islanders.

Citizens of Palau, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, subject to a U.S. diplomatic act known as the Compact of Free Association (COFA), are allowed to live and work in the U.S. and join the U.S. military. They also pay taxes, yet they have severely limited access to Medicaid. This is a particularly heavy burden for COFA Islanders, as many suffer from chronic health conditions due to U.S. use of the COFA Islands as a nuclear test site in the mid-nineties.

This summer, COFA Alliance National Network (CANN), with support from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and other partners, organized to advocate for health coverage. They succeeded in raising awareness of the issue, convincing several Oregon legislators to champion their cause, and ushering House Bill 2522 through Congress. 

HB 2522, which was signed by Governor Kate Brown, directs the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services to begin designing a premium assistance program for COFA Islanders.

We're crossing our fingers for more definitive action during the short session in 2016!

Read more about this issue in the Portland Business Journal.

Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon is a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partner. They are also a lead organizer of one of our Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaboratives.

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.

Fair Shot for All

"Real Opportunity for Every Oregonian."

This week we're celebrating the Fair Shot for All coalition, which saw four out of five of its priority bills pass during the 2015 Oregon legislative session!

All four bills are huge wins for hardworking Oregonians! All told, they require employers to offer their employees paid sick days, ban questions about criminal history on job applications, reform Oregon's retirement savings system, and increase law enforcement's accountability for profiling.

The best thing about Fair Shot for All? It is a coalition of community-led organizations! This means that the people who are most affected by these policies are the ones leading the effort to change them. When putting their agenda together, Fair Shot for All sat down with employers and businesses, as well as employees, to talk about how this legislation could work for them. Fair Shot for All put time and thought into creating an agenda that all Oregonians could benefit from, and it shows in their success.

Fair Shot for All includes several of our past and current partners: Family Forward Oregon, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon, CAUSA, Oregon Action, Partnership for Safety and Justice, PCUN, the Urban League of Portland, VOZ Workers’ Rights and more.

Fair Shot for All is funded in part by the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation through a grant awarded to Family Forward Oregon

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.”

Moving the Health Care Constituency

A woman and a man in suits talking to each other.

OSPIRG is a 35-year old advocacy organization, with a full-time legislative presence at the capitol, tens of thousands of members across Oregon, and an online activist network of thousands of people.

In 2009, OSPIRG collaborated with Oregonians for Health Security (OHS), a leading voice in healthcare advocacy in Oregon, to split a one-year, $40,000 grant. The funding enabled the two groups to reach out to 30,000 Oregonians at community events, on the phone, online, and through media – all in an effort to mobilize support for a legislative bill to improve access to health care for all Oregonians.

Influenced by this, and fifteen other healthcare advocacy efforts funded by the Foundation, the Oregon Legislature passed two bills that are expected to cover 95% of Oregon’s uninsured children and extend coverage to an additional 35,000 low-income adults while instituting a reformed model of healthcare delivery for Oregonians.

“This may be the most important piece of legislation that we pass out of this building this session. This is a good deal for Oregon,” said Senator Alan Bates (D-Ashland).