Many Voices,
Many Journeys

Stories from Six Portland Families

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Mayor Wheeler reading with a child

Dear Portlander,

The theme of the 2020 Report: “Many Voices, Many Journeys” is a perfect time for us to reflect on Portland’s strengths... and shortcomings. While our city is a welcoming and wonderful place for many, we must acknowledge its history of systemic and institutional racism that created a long legacy of barriers that remain to this day for people of color.

The Levy creates opportunities for children and families to overcome these challenges, and supports their success at home, in school, and in the community. This is an exciting time for us, as we are in the midst of a spring funding round, are poised to partner with scores of programs that provide hope and opportunity, and are pleased that a new Small Grants Fund will improve equity of access for organizations that have not received Levy funding in the past. Initiatives like these are part of the Levy’s “journey” as well; one in which we are thankful for your support.

Ted Wheeler, Portland Mayor

Chair, Portland Children’s Levy Allocation Committee

Mayor Wheeler’s Signature

Making Children
A Priority

This year’s Community Report focuses on six families whose journey brought them to Portland and how involvement with a Levy-supported organization empowered them along the way. We thank them for sharing their stories, and for their contributions, talents and gifts that make our city stronger.

After School Program Icon

After School

Interesting and engaging after-school programs

Mentoring Program Icon


Caring and nurturing mentors

Hunger Relief Program Icon

Hunger Relief

Healthy food for growing minds and bodies

Child Abuse Prevention Program Icon

Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention

Building resilience and reducing risks in families

 Foster Care Program Icon

Foster Care

Academic and life skills support for children in foster care

Early Childhood Program Icon

Early Childhood

Quality and accessible early childhood education

Strong Families =
Strong City

The Portland Children’s Levy grew out of a need to make sure all children have access to the support they need to flourish and prosper. Knowing that historical and institutional barriers, economic instability and systemic racism are key factors that explain disparities in our community, PCL support contributes to eliminating these racial and ethnic inequities through:

  1. Educational and economic opportunities

  2. Preparation for school

  3. Positive early development

  4. School engagement & academic success

  5. Family safety & stability

  6. Advocacy skills to parents/caregivers

  • Program Investments

    Millions of dollars: Early Childhood 7.8, After School 3.4, Foster Care 1.8, Mentoring 1.6, Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention 2.8, Hunger Relief 1.6
  • Primary Language Spoken At Home*

    Percentages: English 63.3, Chinese 1.9, Spanish 17.5, Not Given 6.6, Other 7.5, Vietnamese 2.1, Russian 1.1
  • Race/Ethnicity*

    Percentages: Latino/Hispanic 22.5, Middle Eastern 0.7, Slavic 1.3, African American 17.5, Native American/Native Alaskan 2, Asian 6.7, Multiracial 13.8, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 1, African 3.7, Not Given 5.9, White 24.6
  • Portland Neighborhoods

    Percentages: North 13.57, Northeast 11, East 42.6, Southeast 5.4,  Central 0.6, Southwest 2.6, Northwest 0.5

These graphics represent the majority of Levy-funded programs that annually serve more than 12,000 children. They do not include Hunger Relief services that annually provide food to nearly 12,000 children, 53 percent who were children of color; at least 39 percent who spoke a first language other than English; and 53 percent who resided in East Portland.

After School

A Voice and Journey from Liberia

Isata is happy that she doesn’t have to worry about her middle son being safe and nurtured during after-school hours while she is working.

The third grader at Hayhurst Elementary attends the Neighborhood House, Connect After-School program where he can choose from a bevy of programs like arts and crafts, as well as homework help and other academic support. But there’s also time to just be a kid and play with his friends.

“It teaches him things that we can’t always do at home,” she says, noting that he is reading above grade level is exceeding in his school studies. “He loves it and I love it,” she says, adding that his 6-year-old brother Elyas is excited to be eligible to attend the program next year.

Born in Liberia, Isata is pleased to have made Portland home in 2005 after arriving here after years spent in a Sierra Leone refugee camp. Her two younger sons, along with oldest Hamzar, agree that they are hopeful about their future.

“We love it here. Especially when you know your kids are safe and happy,” she says.

Isata, smiling
Keifala laughing with his siblings
Hamzar and Keifala playing with a small toy

“We love it here. Especially when you know your kids are safe and happy.”


A Voice and a Journey from Nepal

For 16-year-old Sabitra, IRCO’s Refugee and Immigrant Mentor (RIM) program is a place where the specific pressures and pitfalls of being a teenager seem to fade away.

Born in Nepal, she arrived in Portland in 2013 after spending years in a refugee camp there. The RIM program provides structure, support and a friendly place where she can turn to for help for everything from school to family life.

Sabitra wants to go to college and pursue a career in healthcare, perhaps as a nurse, so she can improve life for others – a dream she has been gravitating toward after seeing loved ones in need of medical help. “In my home I have seen people sick and it makes me sad. I want to be able to help them someday.”

Sabitra, smiling
Sabitra standing in from of the program IRCO building
Sabitra smiling and looking at her mentor

“IRCO’s mentoring program is very helpful. If I don’t understand something in school, after coming to RIM I have seen my grades get better and better.”

“IRCO को मार्गदर्शन कार्यक्रम धेरै उपयोगी छ। यदि मैले स्कूलमा केहि बुझ्दिन भने, रिममा आए पछि मैले मेरो ग्रेडहरू राम्रो र राम्रो हुँदै गरेको देखेको छु।”

Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention

A Voice And A Journey From Mexico

When “S” came to El Programa Hispano Católico more than a year ago she was unhappy and deflated after leaving a difficult relationship with her former partner.

“I felt like a person who was destroyed and in pieces,” she says, reflecting on that dark time in her life. “This program has been a total blessing.”

Through her hard work she has gained newfound confidence, while forging a stronger and closer relationship with her children. She has become a better communicator with honed parenting skills that allow her to stay patient, even with three growing boys, and their home life is more relaxed and calm.

The empowerment that S has found is something she wants to share with others, as she intends to go to school and one day open her own food cart that would employ other women whom she has met through the program. She has “big dreams” that she won’t be dissuaded from.

“I came here after many, many years of fear – it was in every part of my life and in my heart. I thought life was fear, but that has been replaced by knowing that organizations like El Programa are coming from a place of love. That is so healing.”

S, smiling
S, huddled with her children
S, standing with her children

“I now believe I am worthy. I am beautiful.”

“Ahora creo que soy digno. Soy hermosa.”


Early Childhood

A Voice And A Journey From China

PPS Creston Head Start is a family affair for Xin Liu. Her third daughter, 5-year-old Kelly, is currently a student there, following in the footsteps of both older sisters.

“They all really love to go to Head Start,” says Xin, who is from the Guangdong province in southern China.

Head Start offers a high-quality early learning preschool experience to prepare Kelly for kindergarten next fall, while also assisting her parents with better ways to interact with their daughter; navigate the school system; and forge connections and share resources with other Chinese immigrant families.

Xin says she has gained as much as her children – they curl up with books nearly every night and she has learned to read and spell English along with them.

“I try to change and learn from my kids as they go to school,” she says.

Xin, smiling
Xin and Kelly reading together
Kelly showing a peace sign with her hand

“I try to change and learn from my kids as they go to school.”

“在我孩子上学的 同时,我努力学 习不断改变。”


Foster Care

A Voice and a Journey to a Forever Family

Shadow, Acaccia and “A” have been empowered in their journey to find their forever family through the Boys & Girls Aid Permanency Preparation.

They have learned to navigate the complicated balance between birth and foster family, build and maintain connection with all the important people in their lives, and develop a loving network of permanent supports. “I like to remember all the fun times I had,” says Acaccia, a high school sophomore, along with her freshman-age sister A.

For Shadow, a high school junior who loves to think “outside” the box and is drawn to creative writing, poetry, song writing and rap music, the program has provided strength and inspiration the past few years. Acaccia has grown more confident and willing to try new things while A is enjoying her school cooking class and recently tried out her new culinary skills for her family as she made a full breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs.

For now, the program helped the children to feel more settled and connected to their family while also maintaining loyalty and connection with their birth family. They also have a clearer understanding of what it means to be in a permanent family that’s not their family of origin, along with the security of knowing they won’t be moved around in the system anymore.

Shadown, smiling
A, reading with her mentor
Acaccia happily reading a book

“The program has really helped me become stronger. I think it’s helped all of us get stronger.”


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