Dear PRSG Family, Happy New Year and welcome to 2021! We are so excited to start off the new year with optimism and revitalization and even more excited to have you all along for the ride. We have big plans for the new year. Our first task will be the launch of our client census survey, which will help us collect vital information from our clients to better serve them. This has been a labor of love for our team as we spent countless hours creating a platform that is specific to our needs. We are immensely proud of this accomplishment and the team that worked so hard on it.
2020 was a year we will all remember as a year of struggle, pain, uncertainty, and loss, but through it all we persevered and stood hand and hand with our community. We did our best to help those in need. Of course, we could have never done any of this without your generosity and the support of our amazing community. Thanks to you, we ended 2020 with a bang and surpassed our Give!Guide fundraising goal by over $5,000.
Over the past year PRSG along with our partners, have handed out over 5,000 pounds of meat and food, provided over 500 hours of tutoring, shared up to date COVID-19 information in several languages, including culturally specific COVID-19 videos, as well as over $60,000 in assistance to families in need. This has included housing, utilities, education, food, clothing, COVID relief, PPE, mental health services, and so much more. We are proud of the work we do and honored to serve our community. We would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our supporters from the bottom of our hearts whose devotion has been lifesaving!
Beaverton 4Square Church, ISOS, Portland Clinic Foundation, Oregon Community Fund, Oregon Health Authority, Cool Islam, Meyers Memorial Trust, The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, The Thesis Foundation, Give!Guide, Project Untangled, Bombas, The Zephyr Charitable Foundation, DHS, and to everyone else who has supported us along the way, thank you!!!!
PRSG 2020 Year in Review
Even through the lockdown, PRSG found a way to get aid to those most in need. These are just some of the many activities that took place this year. For more check out www.pdxrsg.org
How You Can Help!
Your unwavering support of PRSG has kept us going through one of the hardest years in American history. Although many of you have suffered this year as well, you still managed to share what you could to help those less fortunate. We will continue to update everyone on opportunities to help and support. We hope that in person activities will resume as well in the new year and we will need your support to make that happen. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we embark on 2021. For more information about how to help or donate to PRSG visit our donations page on our website.
Donations - PORTLAND REFUGEE SUPPORT GROUP (pdxrsg.org)
If you are looking for COVID-19 Emergency Resources we have attached a spreadsheet listing emergency resources of many different types in the Portland area created and maintained by Congressman Earl Blumenauer and his team in Portland, Oregon. Thank you, Congressman Blumenauer, for your efforts!
The COVID-19 vaccine is here, and we know you have a lot of questions. An updated fact sheet is available here to answer all your questions. Currently the vaccine is only available to first responders but will soon be available to the public.
Quarantining: There are also new guidelines for quarantining that can be found here. These are highly recommended for those who live in Multnomah county and other high-risk counties.
Resources and Upcoming Events
If you want to meet someone with great ideas, a ton of energy and a smile that will light up any room, look no further than PRSG’s social chair, Sonia Halvorson. Sonia has been with PRSG for nearly 4 years. As a fulltime software engineer, mother to beautiful ten-year-old Saoirse (pronounced Seer-sha), and wife to Derek, Sonia has a very full plate. Life was fine until Sonia began seeing a negative shift here in the US. An anti-Muslim sentiment was sweeping across the nation and a Muslim ban was looming over the horizon. No longer recognizing the US as a welcoming and safe space for all, Sonia was looking for a way to counter these negative attitudes and do good in the world. During a serendipitous meeting at a book club Sonia learned about PRSG and realized that she wanted to be a part of the organization.
Sonia joined and threw herself in 100%. Her first tasks were to organize events for the multitude of refugee clients. This included community dinners, holiday celebrations, Oaks Park events, and toy drives. Soon after, with the help of others, Sonia started the PRSG bake sales which became one of the most rewarding projects she took on. In 2019, Sonia lost her father and beloved stepmother to cancer, all while starting a new job at Stanford University. She realized that she needed to pace herself so she would not burn out. She scaled back her volunteer efforts to just the bake sales and the Oaks Park Eid event. Both events were paused due to COVID-19. In November, Sonia realized just how much she missed the rewards of doing something meaningful and, with the help of fellow PRSG volunteers, revived the Bake Sale in a new virtual model which has proven to be successful for all involved.
“One thing I have learned is the high burnout rate for volunteers. You go in full guns and burn out and walk away which was a lesson for me to do what was sustainable good and hang on rather than doing a lot and burning out.”
When asked if PRSG has changed her, Sonia explained that the connection to doing something hands-on with people is important and so much different than just writing a check – getting to know people makes the reward greater. She continues explaining that volunteering is not an altruistic thing because the reward is so much greater than other things that she does in her life. She has learned a lot about different cultures and other faiths that has been so enriching for her and her family. She also has come to understand how overwhelming the refugee crisis is and that there is so little between living and having nothing. Sonia is amazed by how strong the refugee families we serve are and has a greater appreciation for everything we take for granted. Sonia hopes to stay with PRSG for a long time and encourages others to join as well. When life offers her a moment of free time, Sonia leaves her home in Sellwood to hike the beautiful hills of the Pacific Northwest with her family, friends and adorable pup Billie Holiday. She also loves making documentaries, one of which you can watch here!
The PRSG December Bake Sale
Another successful bake sale is in the books. Thanks to the amazing bake sale team, Sonia Halvorson, Cheri Smith, Kirsten Burt, and Eva Khan. So many delicious foods were purchased from the Portland metro area thanks to the new Beaverton pickup point, making the goodies prepared by our refugee family available to so many more people. Keep checking our website and social media for updates.
Portland Clinic Foundation
The Portland Clinic Foundation was a huge supporter of PRSG this past year and they topped off their amazing efforts by collecting much needed winter clothing for needy families. The donations came just in time for the dropping temperatures in Oregon.
Oregon Health Authority
Thank you to the Oregon Health Authority for granting us funds to help spread information regarding COVID-19 and helping to keep our community informed. We have been able to update our website regularly with the latest COVID news as well as distribute printed materials. We were also able to distribute hand sanitizer to our families with language specific instructions. We hope to continue to work with the OHA in the future to keep you all informed.
PRSG COVID-19 Survey
PRSG conducted a survey to assess the needs of our families during the COVID-19 pandemic thus far. Thank you to all the families who participated. Upon analysis of the survey, we found many common themes with regards to basic needs, fears and mental health. Of the surveyed, 27% still work the same jobs pre-COVID and the remainder either lost hours or are not working with 10% of them on unemployment. All participants shared fears about the future ranging from fear about losing the ability to take care of their families to contracting and dying from the disease. The greatest effect of COVID on our clients has been the effect of the pandemic on their mental health. Of the surveyed, 88% state that they are more depressed, anxious, and fearful than pre-COVID and many claim that their relationships with family and friends has changed in a negative way due to the stress of the pandemic. PRSG will be working with Dr. Omar Reda and Project Untangled to help address many of the mental health needs of our clients and hope that as the pandemic eases, so will the stressors that so many of our community face. Results from the complete survey will be added to the PRSG website.
Somalia – Population 15,893,222
The beautiful nation of Somalia is a country rich in history. Located in Africa, Somalia has the longest coastline on the continent and gently curves around the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. Somalia is home to a diverse population. The main language spoken in Somalia is known as AF Somali with two dialects known as Maay and Maxaa Tiri. Other languages are spoken as well including Swahili, Arabic, Soqotr, Italian and English. Sadly, the beautiful landscapes and coastlines of Somalia were thrown into ruin due to an ongoing conflict that started in 1991. Since then, millions of Somalis have lost their lives, become displaced and have had to start over in countries all over the world. Today, approximately 2.6 million Somalis are displaced within their own country.
The largest concentration, around half a million, are in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and more continue to arrive daily due to the war and harsh climate. As of March 31, 2020, the number of refugees who left Somalia and registered with the UNHCR was 763,933 with most of them settling in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia) as well as Sudan, Kenya, and Yemen. The impact of nearly two-and-a-half decades of armed conflict has taken a heavy toll on the population, especially the most vulnerable. Through all of this, Somalis have found ways to thrive and share their beautiful culture with people all over the world. From their colorful clothing to their delicious food, Somalis have shown how generous and gracious they are as a people.
Clothing: Somalis have many beautiful styles of clothing that are dyed in rich hues and made of the finest fabrics. For the women, there are different forms of traditional clothing worn. In the home, women mainly wear a baati, which is a dress made of a durable material such as cotton or polyester. When out for a special event, women will wear a dirac (pronounced dirra), made of finer materials of different colors and shine and come in many different styles. You can learn more about the dirac here. For men, the traditional clothing ranges for a sarong-like outfit, worn around the waist, called a macawiis or a long ankle-length garment called a kameez paired with a colorful turban or an embroidered cap known as koofiyad. To learn more about Somali clothing, check out this site or this one for even more information.
Food: Although the cuisine of Somalia has been influenced by many different cultures, they are known for several dishes that will surely pique your interest. From Anjero and Suqar to Sambusa and Malawah, there are a large variety of foods to choose from. One interesting fact we learned while researching the rich culture of Somalia was that many Somalis eat bananas with their main rice and pasta dishes. According to a local Somali chef, bananas are eaten with dishes prepared with the traditional spice mixture known as Besbaas, because the sweetness of the banana nicely offsets the spice and adds a different layer of flavor. Lucky for us there are several Portland based Somali restaurants to satisfy your appetite and curiosity. Two of them that come highly recommended are Salaama International Bazaar and Hayat Restaurant. To learn more about Somali cuisine or learn how to cook it, check out this site for more amazing Somali food ideas and recipes.
There is so much to learn and share about Somali that would fill volumes of books and we still may not fully appreciate all Somalia has to offer. We are lucky to have so many Somali neighbors here in Portland and hope that one day the country they know, and love will return to peace.
Thank you again volunteers for an amazing year. Since the beginning of the pandemic, you made sure that you were there for us and our clients. Thank you to all who took the volunteer survey. Your responses are important to us and we want you to know that we are listening and hope to make 2021 even better. You helped us learn so much about how to improve our work with our families and with you. Please do not forget to visit our website for all up to date resources and important information to best help our clients. We hope to have regular meetings and trainings again soon.
Website – www.pdxrsg.org
Information – Admin@pdxrsg.org
President – Nura@pdxrsg.org
Vice President – Jenny@pdxrsg.org
Treasurer – Eva@pdxrsg.org
Programming – Tahia@pdxrsg.org
Head of Refugee Affairs – Fatein@pdxrsg.org
Office Manager – Yasser@pdxrsg.org
Tutoring and Educational Services - Education@pdxrsg.org
Events – Social@pdxrsg.org
Goods Donations – Donations@pdxrsg.org
Office & Mailing Address - 10175 SW Barbur Blvd #102B, Portland, OR 97219
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