The New Portlanders Policy Commission consists of up to 25 individuals from Portland's newcomer and ethnic minority communities; the members are of all races, ethnicities, faiths, generations, genders, gender identities, sexual orientation, abilities and disabilities, and economic statuses. Each member provides knowledge in resettlement and integration, community organizing and advocacy, civic engagement, education, public safety, and health. Below is a list of all current members.
Ahmed Al zubidi is a School District Community Liaison for the Arabic community. As a refugee, he has utilized his skills in case management, interpretation, and coaching within refugee resettlement programs such as IRCO and Catholic Charities. He is a community leader in the Arabic community, founder of the Arabic House and a member of the parent advisory committee in his children's school. He is a graduate of the PILOT and BOLD leadership programs and is well known as bridge builder and community collaborator. For 8 years, he served as a senior correspondent with the US Army in Bagdad.
Mohammad Bader immigrated to the United States in 1986 to seek higher education and a better life. Soon after immigrating, he discovered that he liked to work with individuals with behavioral health challenges and with people in intercultural marriages, particularly on Arab-Americans and Muslim communities. Mohammad is currently the interim director with the Department of County Human Services Division in Multnomah County. His department provides food justice, rent assistance, and services to people living within Multnomah County. Mohammad has also taught various classes as an adjunct instructor at Portland State University. He is a published poet and his works have appeared in several books. His recently published book, The Traveler, speaks about his experience as an immigrant over the span of 25 years.
Dr. Baher Butti is a mental health, social services, and wellness expert. He is also a speaker and writer on the psychological traumas of refugees and multicultural issues. Since his arrival to Portland in 2007, Dr. Butti founded the Iraqi Society of Oregon and of the Center for lntercultural Wellness. He brings to the commission expertise as an intercultural community organizer and advocate, with ties to groups including: Colored Pencils Art and Culture and Center for Immigrant Organizing.
Nabin Dhimal is a Bhutanese Nepali refugee born and raised in a refugee camp. Nabin’s family and hundreds of thousands of Bhutanese Nepali were expelled as a part of Bhutan’s ethnic cleansing policy. With his lived experiences as a refugee and person of color, he is passionate about elevating and empowering the voices of marginalized communities. Currently, he is IRCO’s Youth Academic Program coordinator. With a broader community, he is a board director for Nesika Wilamut, Outgrowing Hunger, and Metro’s Committee on Racial Equity. Nabin brings a strong Racial Equity framework, educational leadership and policy, and a commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable society.
Djimet Dogo is the Director of IRCO/Africa House and the Manager of IRCO's Comprehensive Refugee Employment Services. He has over 17 years of experience working on issues related to equity, social justice, and the protection of newly resettled refugees. His expertise is in bringing people together to create and implement community-based solutions.
Anne Downing is an ESL teacher at a large public high school in East Portland. Her experiences in integrating newcomers, however, transcend the boundaries of the classroom to working with various community groups including IRCO and Catholic Charities. Anne brings to the commission expertise in delivering specialized classes for newly arrived students, a passion for connecting newcomers to the Portland community, and the sincerity with which she approaches her work.
Massarra Eiwaz-Ransom is an experienced public health professional with a history of working in the nonprofit, academia, coordinated care organization, and social services fields. She has extensive experience in community outreach, education and research, providing culturally specific services, working with racially diverse and ethnic communities, and developing program curriculum. She has been involved in efforts to promote Traditional Health Workers, refugee health, and social justice. Massarra Came to the United States as a refugee from Iraq, she was able to build her professional and personal experience by working with her own community and other refugee communities. As a student and then a professional, Massarra has faced the struggle of language barriers, cultural differences, not being heard, being the only minority in the room, and fear when expecting racism and discrimination. Massarra is eager to always jump in and support when it comes to providing just and equitable services to the refugee and immigrant communities. Currently, Massarra is a Policy Analyst II - Developmental Disability/Mental Health and Traditional Health work programs coordinator at the Oregon Home Care Commission.
Blanca Gaytan Farfan- Blanca was born in Michoacán, Mexico. She arrived to the United States in 2002 and has called the Portland metro area home ever since. Blanca has a deep passion for community engagement, policy, and political work. She began her community engagement work with the Multnomah Youth Commission, serving three years as a youth commissioner and later as program staff. Blanca has been involved in advancing census equity work, collaborated on political campaign operations resulting in the increase of BIPOC leadership in public office in recent elections, and is currently leading youth leadership development programming, advocacy, and civic engagement efforts across East Multnomah County. Blanca brings a strong community focused framework, expertise in youth participation in civic engagement, and a passion to serve and give back to her community.
Kolini Fusitu'a has been a member the Tongan American Resource Committee for over 18 years. In this role, he has linked members to resources and has coached community members to participate in local public budget hearings. He also currently works for IRCO as a Program Coordinator. Kolini brings to the commission a strong network of community partners, experience navigating community policing, civic engagement, and community integration efforts.
Hussein Idow is a young African refugee who understands the struggles and challenges of African refugees and immigrants. He has experience working on Community Advocacy, Civic Engagement, Resettlement, and community integration. Hussein has worked as youth and family advocate with IRCO, and now he is the Executive Director of African Refugee Immigrant Organization (ARIO) in Portland. He also has experience working as community health worker, substance abuse counselor, family navigator, online family tracing officer, and as a youth empowerment and rehabilitation officer.
Yonas Kassie has worked for many years to facilitate positive integration of Eritrean and Ethiopian communities into the greater Portland community. He is a community partner with IRCO on matters related to Oregon Health Insurance. Yonas speaks Amharic, English, and Tigrinya and is a certified interpreter in the fields of health, employment, legal, and education.
SB Langh has served as chair and secretary of the Zomi Association of USA for over 7 years. SB also worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and is a qualified medical interpreter for the Oregon Health Authority. SB brings to the commission a strong commitment to increase newcomers' access to the American Dream by ensuring that it is inclusive to people of all ethnic and cultural origins.
Evelyn Liu approaches the New Portlanders Policy Commission with the belief that integration and equity is about all of us. Her experience with Colored Pencils Art & Culture has allowed her to work across many cultural groups as a photographer. As a daughter of parents who immigrated from China, Evelyn has had a foot in both doors and believes that our true strength comes from challenging "scarcity" narratives and working together for all.
Vania Lucio-Mancilla is an immigrant woman who came to the United States at the age of four. She has had firsthand experience of the life and struggles of immigrant communities, including housing insecurity, job instability, racism, xenophobia and navigating oppressive institutions. At the same time Vania had the opportunity to deal with these oppressions through her professional work and her community organizing experiences. As a mentor at Roosevelt High School in North Portland, she was given the opportunity to work with immigrant and refugee parents and leaders in the community, they helped understand the different and often intersectional issues that impact our communities. Through Vania’s current role as an organizer at Unite Oregon she has been addressing immigrant and refugee community needs, at PSU, Vania advocated for DACA as an undocumented student, working on a proposal for the establishment of a Dreamer’s Resource Center on campus.
Jessica Marks has worked primarily in the field of refugee resettlement and forced displacement both in the U.S. and abroad. She was the founder and Executive Director of USAHello, a tech-based nonprofit that provides online education, resources, and information for over a million newcomers per year. Her work in social justice began 15 years ago, after completing a year as an AmeriCorps Vista in Washington, DC. She has worked with refugees on the Thai-Burma border, developed policies to support rural refugee resettlement, and served as case manager and programs director. Jessica learned that immigrant and refugee experiences were vastly different, and to build policies that support newcomers, we must understand their unique experiences. More recently, Jessica has worked as a consultant, helping create more inclusive and welcoming organizations, schools and cities. Jessica has a Masters in Public Administration. She believes newcomers make our communities stronger, more vibrant places.
Bernal Cruz Muñoz moved to the US in 1990 during a civil war and political unrest in this native country of Guatemala. Bernal brings over 20 years of experience providing complex mental health services to children, families, and communities in various settings like schools, hospitals, foster care, refugee, and residential facilities for diverse populations. He is a community-based social worker, currently working as a case coordinator for unaccompanied children who have travelled to the U.S. Bernal is a public speaker, a guest lecturer, and a storyteller whose focus is largely to humanize the migrant experience, to advance social justice, inclusion, and to ensure that newcomers can thrive in their new environments.
Salome Nanyenga is the interim operations manager and social worker at IRCO/Africa House. She has worked as an anti-poverty case manager, housing stability and safety coordinator and recently received her BA in Social Work from Portland State University. As a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she understands the challenges communities struggle with and has informed solutions and practices to address these challenges. She is a volunteer on the St. Phillip Neri Advisory Board.
Dr. Erick Ruiz is a workforce training and performance improvement expert and change leader. In addition, he is a thought leader in workforce training, award-winning speaker, and writer. Born and raised in Hawai’i, Dr. Ruiz is a second-generation American from the Philippines. His ethnic background reflects his diverse upbringing (Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese), and his hobbies reflect his love for the Hawaiian language and culture. His past work in the community includes community outreach and education about community credit union services, educating community service and non-profit organizations on how to access technology donations through TechSoup Global, participation in public speaking organizations, and involvement in LGBTQ+ events in the community and the workplace.
Mia Sabanovic is a refugee from Bosnia. In 1995 she escaped with her family the genocide in Bosnia and immigrated to Portland. Mia has worked on Resettlement and integration, Civic Engagement, and Community Advocacy. Mia is a Civil Engineer graduate at Portland State University and for the past 15 years has been working for the City of Portland. Mia served on the Islamic Bosnians Educational & Cultural Organization - IBECO leadership board and has also volunteered with the Muslim Educational Trust (MET), and participated with the Woman in Leadership conferences to commemorate March 8th (International Women's Day) encouraging Muslim women to step into leadership roles. For the past 18 months Mia has been volunteering on the Portland Utility Board which provides advise to the Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental services on issues that impact our communities.
Wajdi Said has been instrumental in founding several organizations well-regarded for their support to newcomers, including: the United Muslim Aid, Muslim Educational Trust, Islamic Social Services of Oregon State, and Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon. In addition, Wajdi brings to the commission over 28 years of experience providing mediation to Arab American and Muslim communities and contributing to the positive integration of these communities.
June Schumann worked as a social worker in Multnomah County's Aging and Disability Services (ADS) Program where she was responsible for the creation of multi-cultural policies and programs for older adults of color. In this role, she advised on policy, planned programs, organized training for staff, and published the first set of multi-lingual pamphlets about ADS services. June also brings to the commission her experience as the founding director of Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, a Japanese American history museum in Portland.
Victor Tran is a second-generation member of an East Asian family; his father was a refugee from the Vietnam War. Personal and familial history has taught Victor to see cities and urban spaces as crucial contributors to health and well-being. Victor works as an urban planner, weaving together the science of how cities legally operate with the art of recognizing the importance of how culture and community affect how space is experienced. As a volunteer at the Japanese Garden, he is often found carrying a sketch book and learning more about the visitors who find themselves in the garden. He is connected to the local dance community, and as a self-described "third culture kid", he is often found engaging different communities through work and personal endeavors to understand peoples' stories and facilitating a sharing of lived experiences.
Rama Youssef fled the Syrian war in 2012 and has been in the U.S. ever since. She has been doing immigrant and refugee work and learned how to navigate and take advantage of possible resources available for people like her such as scholarships, and funding. Rama volunteered at a variety of institutions throughout High School and college. One of her volunteer experiences was working for the Syrian American Medical Society as a community outreach at the Rose Haven Shelter, and also had the opportunity to give community talks to empower and encourage young women to advocate for themselves.