During this fiscal year starting July 2016, Portland Meet Portland has made connections for immigrant and refugee individuals and families as well as the mentors they work with. Numbers do not always speak for themselves, so read on below and hear what our participants had to say about their experience.
Immigrants & Refugees Served - 300
Youth Leaders Empowered - 30
Citizenship & ESL - 200
Mentors Engaged – 36
Work Skill Hours – 2,640
Cultural Exchange Hours – 460
This summer, Portland Meet Portland hosted four refugee youth SummerWorks interns from Multnomah County. The experience was beyond successful for both the interns and all of the people who worked with them. Read more about the program and impact at Multnomah County's MultcoGlobal site.
Among the many experiences the four girls from Nepal and Burma had during their SummerWorks internship with Portland Meet Portland was visiting Bloom Pilates. Read Jodi Heintz, owner of Bloom Pilates experience working with the girls.
Giving of your time and receiving ten fold
Last month I had the opportunity to host a group of five young women at the studio who had moved to Portland as refugees from Nepal and Burma. They were participating in a program that, in part, offers them opportunities to meet with a variety of people, professionals, and businesses. Through these visits, they are building communication skills, learning to use mass transit, and thinking about career opportunities.
It was equal parts fun and fascination trying to convey the philosophy and mechanics of a movement system they had never heard of before. We spent time on the mat and on the equipment learning how to “turn on” muscles and find alignment. There were a few groans about how hard Pilates is but, more importantly, lots of laughter muddling through Knee Folds, Hundreds, Roll Ups and Teasers.
Their laughter and positive energy has stayed with me over the weeks since they visited the studio. It was pure joy introducing Pilates to these newcomers. It reminded me of the importance of facing new experiences and new places with humor and grace. It also reminded me to not take my own Pilates practice too seriously. Pilates is fun, after all!
On the cusp of Bloom’s one-year anniversary, their questions about why I opened a Pilates studio helped me reflect on my passion for and belief in this movement system. And my desire to provide a safe and empowering space for people to find a mind-body connection that gives them strength inside and out.
I received a lovely thank you note from them but I should be thanking them. I’m quite certain I gained more from them than they did from me.
Stories from Our Village
The hundreds of hours spent making connections for newcomer refugee and immigrants and long-term residents really breaks down to one thing - relationships. Our goal is achieved in the stories of people making surprising realizations, new friendships and building new skills.
In 2013, the Stories of Our Village project emerged as an opportunity to share stories of one of the most diverse communities in Portland = New Columbia. The mission of the story project was to capture in their own words a variety of voices from the New Columbia world. You can read the full Stories from Our Village right here.