Last weekend, I attended the graduation ceremony for the Iraqi Society of Oregon's latest Cultural Integration Series class at the East Portland Community Center. The Iraqi Society of Oregon's Social Adjustment and Integration program provides resources for approximately 3,000 Iraqis who live in the local area, as well as for Iraqi refugees moving to Portland. This organization is dedicated to helping integrate Iraqi residents into Portland life through a holistic method built on providing both basic skills and a sense of community.
At the end of the event, I accepted a gift on behalf of the City of Portland.
Omar al Kubaisi, President of the Iraqi Society of Oregon, and Arlene Kimura of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association.
The exquisite framed artwork by artist Farooq Hussein is now hanging in our office. Omar studied at the University of Leeds, which is my hometown in England - it's a small world. Mrs. al Kubaisi provided the delicious food for the celebration.
Thanks to Polo Catalani of the Office of Equity and Human Rights for supporting the Iraqi community and coordinating the event, also Alejandro "Alex" Vidales of Portland Parks & Recreation and Lore Wintergreen of the East Portland Action plan for their support and participation in the event. It was both inspiring and discomforting to listen to Omar and others talk of their horrendous experiences in Iraq, escaping, and working to integrate here in Portland. I appreciated being reminded that despite the recession, we have many rights and privileges in the United States. I am glad City staff, taxpayers, and community partners dedicate resources of time, money, and friendship to welcome New Portlanders who have overcome the odds to get here.