Parks for New Portlanders brings together seven foreign-born Community Youth Ambassadors who are local leaders, community experts, and speak 12 different languages.
Community Youth Ambassadors advocate, organize, and engage youth who are new to the Portland community and assist Portland Parks & Recreation in identifying barriers and challenges related to parks services for new Portlanders. CYAs collaborate with partner organizations to improve programs and services within the city and beyond while also learning valuable skills which they can practice throughout their lives.
Som Nath Subedi, Program Coordinator
About a quarter-century ago, Som Nath Subedi was one of around a 100,000 victims of The Kingdom of Bhutan’s “One Nation, One People” policy, which expelled his family from their homeland. They lived almost two decades in a Nepal refugee camp, a life without hope and without a meaningful future. Som never got enough food or clean clothes, books to read or bikes to ride. Despite international urging, his ethnic minority community was not repatriated to Bhutan, or returned their normal life.
Som did his best to catch up with his American-born peers. He slept less, investing those hours instead into earlier integration. He showed his worth and asked for space, tried new things, learned about Portland’s vigorous mainstream and the city’s energetic ethnic minority communities other cultures, and built partnerships that added to the diversity of our great state.
Since shortly after his US arrival, Som has worked as a refugee case manager. He resettled new refugee families from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe into neighborhoods, schools, and social service networks for their self-sufficiency and integration into Portland’s communities.
In 2010, Som founded then facilitated a strategy and practice of utilizing soccer as a hook to bring foreign-born families and the City of Portland together, through an annual Portland World Cup Soccer program and other culturally-specific recreational, educational, and occupational, opportunities. Last year alone, the program engaged kids from 30 ethnic communities from 30 countries, who’s families speak 30 languages.
Som’s local and national efforts on behalf of his Bhutanese communities, have provided replicable models of successful integration. For example: Som developed partnerships with local government to deliver annual cultural and civic integration workshop series for Portland’s newcomer families.
Another example: Som developed a local Bhutanese election commission drawn from 17 international models, in order to establish a voting process for Bhutanese mutual assistance association leadership. As result over 500 Bhutanese Oregonians (roughly 92% of their eligible electorate) practiced local democracy. It was a first for Bhutanese ever, anywhere. This immigrant integration model is in national circulation among resettlement agencies, as an effort to empower newcomer communities struggling with the wounds of war and civil strife.
Finally and in many ways most importantly, Som constantly presents a positive narrative of committed New Americans in print and broadcast media.
Adhyavu Dessou, Community Youth Ambassador
Adhyavu came to America in May 2008 when he was only 13. Adhyavu is from Togo where his father worked in the US embassy and then given an opportunity to move to America. When Adhyavu first arrived in America he was placed in an eighth grade where his English was deemed good enough to not need ESL classes. Now Adhyavu is 20 and is going to school for a Software engineering degree. Adhyavu has a passion for international development and social change and wants to go back to Togo, even though he has fallen in love with America. When asked what he does remember, he replied, “the warmth, the food, and the close net communities. He also misses being able to go outside anytime of the day/year and be able to play soccer.” Adhyavu is fluent in French, Ikposo, Ewe/Mina, and English. With his many languages, computer skills and passions for international development and social change Adhyavu brings a unique perspective to the youth ambassadors.
Adhyavu would like to give a message to new Portlanders, “I know it’s hard coming from somewhere else and being in a new place. But this is a great country with great opportunities and many resources. There are people here that are willing to help, I urge you to find them. I am one of those people. There is a community here willing to help, it does take a village to raise a child, and America does have those communities like we do back home. We have been through the same situation and it's by coming together as community that we can make a change.”
Maria Diaz Bonilla, Community Youth Ambassador
Maria was born in Mexico. She moved to the US when she was almost eight years old. She worked hard to learn English and learn the customs and culture here in America, while keeping her own Mexican culture. Her family was very supportive and has helped her to succeed here in America. Her 4 year involvement with the Latino network in their Speak Up and Empower project is what made her realize the passion she has for helping her community.
Maria would like to tell New Portlanders that it will be overwhelming at first, but if you are open to new experiences, you will become a part of it. You can become something that makes the city grow and makes it better.
Nabin Dhimal, Community Youth Ambassador
Nabin Dhimal was born in a refugee camp in Nepal after his parents fled Bhutan due to cultural and political strife. At age 12 he and his family came to the United States. He was placed into 7th grade where he worked hard to understand the new language and customs in America. Despite making few friends that first year, Nabin lived up to the challenge and worked hard to succeed in his studies. Where others might have spent only an hour on their schoolwork, Nabin worked two. In high school, he was involved in Speech and Debate where he won third State Championship. Determination has brought him to the point of being a well-integrated American citizen. He is currently attending PSU on a full ride scholarship he accredits to his ability to tell his own story. He has always been an advocate for his community. He was Groundwork's Youth Ambassador and Youth Action Board, where he worked on environmental justice projects and community education. He was also a leader in International Youth Leadership Council (he once gave a panel presentation to the superintendent of Portland Public Schools about making the ESL program better). Currently he is part of the Community Youth Ambassadors for New Portlanders. He is fluent in Nepali, Hindi and English.
His message to New Portlander’s youth and families is this: You’re in a better place now, but you still have to do a lot of struggling and a lot of hard working. Remember the reason you came and strive toward that goal.
Mamed Kaern, Community Youth Ambassador
Mamed Kaern was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. He and his family are ethnically Burmese. When he was around the age of 11 he, his parents and his 4 siblings had the opportunity to come to the USA. The wait was long and though they all applied at the same time he still has relatives living in Thailand. Upon arrival he was put into 5th grade and worked hard to learn the new customs and new language. He remembers a lot from his life in the camp in Thailand and finds it a very valuable part of his life today. Mamed is now a Junior at David Douglas High School. He desires to go to college and get an Associate’s degree, at least. Even though he wonders how he will pay for it, he is determined to work hard to get an education and live up to the expectations his parent’s had when they brought him here. He has a passion for helping New Portlanders make their move across the world feel less out of control. He desires to help their transition more smooth. He speaks both Burmese and English fluently.
Even though the move can be crazy and terrifying Mamed desires New Portlander’s to not be scared. He urges them to not forget about their past life. But rather, to take advantage of the experience and perspective that it gives them and work hard to be successful.
Haoua Dogo, Community Youth Ambassador
Haoua Dogo was born in Chad but soon after her birth her father found asylum in America due to political trouble. When she was 3 her and her family were able to join him here in Portland, Oregon. Despite his high credentials, he had to work his way up the financial ladder in the USA. Haoua’s father is now director at the IRCO Africa House; he is an inspiration to her to be hard working and active in her community. Haoua is a Junior at David Douglas High School and has worked hard to assimilate to American customs and yet retain her identity as a young lady originally from Chad. Her background helps her to break away from the ignorance of many American youth and understand the perspectives of both sides in news from all over the world. She speaks both Chadian Arabic and English fluently.
Haoua desires New Portlanders to remember where they came from but to also take advantage of the resources available here. She encourages them to stay focused on the main goal, why they came here in the first place. For the youth especially: your family struggled so that you can be successful so don’t give up!
Jean Paul Mugisha, Community Youth Ambassador
Jean Paul Mugisha was born in Congo. His family fled when he was three due to political unrest and war. He spent seventeen years in a refugee camp in Rwanda. His family was resettled here in America almost ten months ago. The transition was difficult as he dealt with all of the government and helping his family adjust to English and American culture. He is currently attending Portland Community College for Electrical Engineering. Jean Paul has a heart for refugees and those suffering from oppression. He works with the organization These Numbers Have Faces. These Numbers Have Faces works to provide education to those in Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and are based in Portland. Jean Paul loves to learn and has a great appreciation for cultures and the different things we can all learn from each other.
Jean Paul would like to tell New Portlanders “Welcome to Portland your New Home. Work hard to make it a better place!”
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