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Dear PRSG Family,
Can you believe it is September already? This summer has seen many challenges, from surging COVID variants, wildfires in the West and flooding in the Southeast, to the refugee crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. Here at PRSG we are gearing up to face these head on as we continue to get the word out about the latest COVID information and get ready to start welcoming the incoming refugees. As always, we are so grateful, in this challenging world, for the opportunity to be a part of making things better for refugee families and helping to alleviate some of the struggles that they face. We couldn’t do what we do without our amazing volunteers and all those who have given their time and energy to help make PRSG a success!
Over the summer, PRSG did its best to keep on top of the changing COVID landscape. We helped get the word out about the importance of masking, social distancing and getting vaccinated. We held several events where we were able to pass on valuable information from the Oregon Health Authority and the CDC regarding the latest recommendations and guidelines. We partnered with FEMA to offer several vaccination clinics and sponsored a fun event with Bellingham Circus Guild where we had medical personnel on hand to answer questions about vaccines. We were able to give away a truck full of household supplies, and free ice cream too!
We expanded our programming with the addition of two new youth programs. Camp Mahara, and the Beyond Reading program. Camp Silah came back better than ever at the end of August after a year off due to COVID. Thank you to our hosts at Camp Magruder for once again making us feel so welcome!
Many schools are getting ready to welcome kids back to in-person learning. Some schools started this week and many start the week after Labor Day. We collected $1,000 in our Back-to-school Supply Drive and we will have school supplies and gift cards available for our families this weekend. If you know a refugee family who needs school supplies, please reach out and let us know!
We are happy to once again partner with the Rosewood Initiative in their Saturday Celebrations event. Every Saturday in September, they will be holding a vaccine clinic and community marketplace. For those of you who are fans of our bake sales, two of our refugee bakers will be in attendance at every event, along with Hind, our fabulous local soap maker. Click HERE to visit the Rosewood Initiative website for more information or look for our event on Facebook.
In addition to all of the above, we are very excited to announce the addition of Angela Swan as our first official Volunteer Coordinator. She is featured in the “Volunteer Spotlight” section and we hope you will all make her welcome to our PRSG family. Once Angela is settled in, we will be hosting a “Getting to know you” live Zoom meeting. Information will be sent out as soon as we have a date and time.
Hiring full time staff is an investment in the future growth of PRSG, and we continue to identify new staffing including a new Executive Director. As many of you already know, Nura Elmagbari, our fearless leader, PRSG co-founder, and President of the Board will be stepping down as acting Executive Director to take a position as principal at the Islamic School of Portland. We wish Nura success in this and all her endeavors. She will stay on as Board President and continue to be a guiding hand and the face of PRSG in the community.
As we head into Fall, we hope you all will all stay healthy and happy as we maneuver the constantly changing COVID landscape. We have many challenges to face, but we are confident in success if we face them together! Our strength is in the community we forge and the support we can provide to one another. We can’t do any of this without YOU! Please continue to show your support of our programs and services, as PRSG fulfills its mission of community and service and continues to grow. Donations - PORTLAND REFUGEE SUPPORT GROUP (pdxrsg.org).
As always, thank you for your continued support!
COVID-19 News and Resources
For a brief moment this summer, we hoped that COVID restrictions and mask requirements were easing, but the Delta variant has changed all that. The Delta variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the US. It is two times more infectious than previous versions. The rapid rise in COVID cases across the state is straining our healthcare system and prompted Governor Kate Brown to reinstate mask mandates. Masks are required indoors everywhere, and outdoors in any crowded space. As schools are preparing to welcome students back in person, they are considering further modifications to guidelines and even postponing return, especially for children under 12 who are not yet able to be vaccinated. Many agencies and business are adding vaccine requirements for their staff.
Unvaccinated people are at highest risk of serious infection, hospitalization, and death. The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. Vaccines are available on a walk-in basis at pharmacies like Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS and are always free. If you are interested in getting vaccinated, click the following link for information on vaccine sites near you. Multnomah county is still offering gift card incentives for those getting vaccinated. Click HERE for more information and list of participating locations.
If you are in East Portland, the Rosewood Initiative at 12126 SW Stark is hosting vaccine clinics every Saturday in September. Click HERE to visit their website and sign up.
Rental Assistance and Moratorium
There is still time to apply for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP) sponsored by the federal government.
Tenants may apply regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
Approval of rental assistance will not impact eligibility for any benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid, Social Security or housing. The funds are NOT first come first serve and are prioritized based on need.
To learn more and apply, CLICK HERE or email the COVID-19 EOC Affordable Housing Liaison at: email@example.com
Senate Bill 282, a bill that extends the repayment period for residential rent accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. If you are behind in your rent, please apply immediately for assistance. For other housing news, including new low-income housing options, visit the Oregon Housing Authority website here.
Rosewood Saturday Celebrations
The Rosewood Initiative’s Saturday Celebrations will be a Community Marketplace as well as a COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic. The event will be held every Saturday this September from 3pm-7pm. The Marketplace will include vendors from the community. Among them will be a few of the bakers from our previous bake sales who will be offering some of their delicious Syrian sweets and breads. Our good friend Hind will also be there selling her wonderful handmade soaps.
Additionally the market will also have a vaccine clinic which will be offering free COVID-19 vaccinations. Stop by any Saturday of this month to get vaccinated if you haven’t already or just to pick up some goodies.
Click HERE for more information.
Due to COVID restrictions, PRSG has made the difficult decision to postpone the restart of our Untangled Potlucks. Stay tuned as we hope to begin potlucks again as soon as it is possible and safe to do so.
School Supply Distribution
School supplies and gift cards will be available to families who request them after Sunday, September 5th.
Angela Swan will begin her new position as PRSG’s new volunteer coordinator on September 1st. Welcome aboard, Angela!
How You Can Help!
Thank you to all of our donors. Your generosity is what keeps us going. If you have fundraising ideas or would like to host a goods donation drive, we would love to hear from you. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas. If you would like to make a monetary donation, please use Donations - PORTLAND REFUGEE SUPPORT GROUP (pdxrsg.org).
In anticipation of an influx of refugees from Afghanistan in the next few months, we are on the lookout for dedicated volunteers to take on the role of core volunteer. Core volunteers work directly with refugee families and help them navigate their adjustment to a new life in the US. This is not an easy role, but it is incredibly rewarding and many core volunteers form lifelong relationships. To learn more about how you can become a core volunteer, visit our website or email email@example.com for more information.
Let us introduce you to our new Volunteer Coordinator Angela Swan. We hope she will have a long and successful relationship with PRSG. Angela first found her way to us through our advertisement for the Volunteer Coordinator position but in doing more research she had this to say “When I looked into what PRSG does, I got very excited because I wanted to contribute to the efforts regardless of the volunteer coordinator position. Bringing displaced populations into communication with volunteers who are interested in helping people make their way in a new country is important work.” Of course, we wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. Out of the dozens of candidates we had for this position, her mindset was one of the biggest reasons we ended up choosing her. She also has a background as a recruiter, helping to match employees with employers that would work best together. All of this and more meant she was perfect for the position.
Angela lives with her husband of 25 years, James, their beautiful kids, 3 dogs, 2 cats, and a ferret named Evie. Not only does she manage her personal life flawlessly, but she also has a business helping job seekers with resumes, interview prep, LinkedIn accounts, and job searches. When she isn’t hard at work, she enjoys spending time eating sushi and watching documentaries. We are certainly lucky to have her as a part of our team!
Angela’s brother-in-law is from Turkey which gave her first-hand experience with immigration and the process for citizenship in this country. She spent time abroad as a student and understands what it is like to find herself immersed in a culture that is very different from her own. We asked her what she was most excited about when it came to working with PRSG and she said “being able to educate the volunteers and then giving them an opportunity to make a real difference in a person's or family's life.” She hopes that having this position will make her a more empathetic, reliable, and knowledgeable resource for people who are interested in working with refugees.
We are so excited that Angela is joining us. She officially started as our Volunteer Coordinator on the first of September. We can’t wait to see what extraordinary things Angela is able to do and wish her the best of luck.
Highlights - Camp Silah
In the summer of 2020, we were forced to cancel one of our most anticipated programs of the year, Camp Silah. This year Camp Silah was back and better than ever!
Making connections between refugees and non-refugees is always our focus for the camp. With that in mind, kids ages 9-18 spent the weekend of August 20th building those connections. After last year’s hiatus, the kids were excited to get to see their friends and make some new ones. They spent their days hiking, attending bonfires, at the archery range, on the beach, and even kayaking.
This year, we were fortunate enough to once again hold this event at beautiful Camp Magruder in Rockaway, Oregon. With their support, Camp Silah was an absolute success. We are unbelievably thankful to every staff member and volunteer who made this event possible. This year was a ton of fun and we can’t wait to see everyone again next year!
More Highlights - Beyond Reading Summer Program
We are excited to announce that this was the first summer PRSG offered a reading program to children and teens. The program ran from July 19th to August 27th, and we had 24 kids signed up! The primary goal of this program was to encourage children and teens to read for fun while still developing critical thinking and writing skills. Our hope by the end of the program was to build enthusiastic readers who would want to continue reading for fun after the program finished. To celebrate and recognize their participation efforts, the Beyond Reading Program ended with a field trip to Oaks Park and each reader receiving a certificate of completion.
The program participants met with our four wonderful reading camp teachers over Zoom twice a week. During these Zoom sessions, the teachers led the way by reading books with the kids and conducting activities before and after reading. These activities focused on character and plot development, creative and critical thinking skills, along with other fun activities involving all of the novels and short stories that were read. These included books such as The Hobbit, The Circuit, The Secret Lake, Crazy Hair Day, and many more beautiful stories.
Although we were faced with many challenges while conducting this program entirely over Zoom, it was still a great success. Many thanks to our reading program teachers for pushing through those challenges. A big thank you to everyone involved and to the Oregon Community Foundation for the grant that made this program possible!
Hopefully, this was the first summer of many for Beyond Reading!
It is hard to miss the news from Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been home to human civilization since the Middle Paleolithic Era. Due to its strategic location along the silk road, it has witnessed numerous military campaigns including those of Alexander the Great, Muslim Arabs, Mongols and more recently the British Empire, the Soviets and the United States and NATO allies. The modern nation of Afghanistan gained its independence in 1926 and that kingdom lasted for 50 years, until it was overthrown and eventually invaded by the Soviet Union in the 80’s. By 1996 most of Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban but after the US invasion in 2001, the Taliban fell, and a democratically elected government was created.
With the withdrawal of US troops this month, the elected government was forced to flee the country, and the Taliban has taken over once again. This has led to one of the largest refugee crises in recent memory. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees have sought shelter in neighboring Iran and Pakistan, and many more are seeking refuge in the US. Many of those looking to resettle here have been allies of the US during the last 20 years of military presence in the country. The US has promised many of them immigration to the US through Special Immigrant Visas (SIV’s). Once SIV holders have completed their background checks and been granted entry to the US, many of them will be headed to new lives in Oregon, one of 37 states that have pledged to receive Afghan refugees. PRSG is looking forward to helping this new wave of refugees and doing what we do best, to help them build new lives here in Oregon!
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
Volunteer Coordinator – Angela@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 Suite102B, Portland, OR 97219
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