Painting by Akram Sarraj
Portland Meet Portland's staff and board bring an array of experience, diversity and knowledge to serve the mission of bringing people together to build cross-cultural community.
Manuel Padilla, Executive Director
Manuel Padilla holds a BA in Philosophy from Portland State University and an MA in peace, conflict, and development studies from the UNESCO chair for the Philosophy of Peace. He has done peace building and conflict transformation work with Refugees, IDP’s, and Immigrants in Washington D.C., Haiti, Chad, Cameroon, and Oregon. Manuel is passionate about creating opportunities and fostering dialogue for more just, vibrant, participatory, and integrated communities. He feels indebted to the beautiful refugee and immigrant individuals and communities that continue to educate him, challenge, and influence his work in cultivating cross cultural relationships and trust. The mission of Portland Meet Portland immediately called to him in its alignment with his core values and in his desire to bring together the global and the local toward complicating narratives and perspectives through shared human experience. In his free time, he jumps at chances to travel, be in nature, to bike, to explore the food landscape of Portland, play music, and to succumb to the peer pressure of his friends and sneak away for beers and community building. As Executive Director, Manuel is deeply grateful for the chance to learn from and work with his colleagues at Portland Meet Portland. He is eager for both the hard work and the celebration that are crucial for the seeds that PMP plants and grows, one relationship at a time.
Janell Lee, Citizenship and Civic Fluency Program Director
Janell Lee has extensive experience developing training programs and a passion for cultivating robust learning environments. Whether its in the physical classroom, or online in the virtual classroom, she strives for meaningful and effective learning opportunities for learning, by integrating experiential learning, brain-based learning, and participatory principles of adult learning. She began teaching ESOL as a volunteer at SE Works and at PCC SE Campus in 2014, and working specifically with the Myanmar community since 2015 when she was awarded an EPNO grant to provide citizenship training. Her recent experience teaching at IRCO exposed her to the array of newcomer refugees and asylees arriving in Portland from around the world, and the many language, cultural and economic challenges they face. Janell traveled to Egypt in 1996, and India in 1997 and 1999 on personal trips. Between 2011-2013, her work took her to Turkey, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand; in 2012 she also visited Myanmar. Janell has always been passionate about social justice, and learning and is excited to join Portland Meet Portland and further its mission.
Marifer Sager, Board President
Marifer Sager is a strong advocate for language access as a key component of racial equity. She believes that the strategic use of language can reshape the narratives of traditionally marginalized groups and ultimately transform systems. Currently, she leads the Translation and Interpretation Services Department at the Portland Public Schools.
She holds a Law degree and a post-graduate certificate in Public Administration from Mexico. She has extensive experience leading teams supporting equity work and the elimination of the disparities faced by vulnerable populations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. During her career, her programs have focused on immigrant/refugee re-settlement, anti-poverty, healthcare, veterans, women and homelessness. Her expertise includes the implementation of outreach and engagement practices aimed at developing trust and fostering dialogue and cooperation among communities and entities.
An immigrant herself, Marifer feels grateful for all the opportunities available to her. It is from this place of gratefulness that she participates on boards and committees that support equity, healthcare, and education.
Ray Morris, Board Treasurer
Five days a week, you'll find Ray Morris behind the counter at Renaissance Cafe, a coffee shop he has operated for nearly a decade. The coffee shop is also home to Renaissance Church, which he pastors. The concept of the coffee shop is similar to that of Portland Meet Portland. It exists to bridge the cultural and religious divide between those in traditional Christian church and those outside of it. Ray believes that preconceived ideas are the root of bigotry and diverse relationships are its antidote.
A lifelong entrepreneur, Ray brings experience in small organizations, from the baseball card shop he opened just out of high school, to a financial planning practice, to a thrift store developed to benefit local nonprofits. Aside from Renaissance Cafe, his proudest role was that as co-founder of My Father's House, a Gresham shelter for homeless families.
A history of work focused on serving those in poverty, raising two disabled daughters, and taking in a troubled teenager as his own, reflect Ray's passion for the underdog.
Angela Zagarella, Board Secretary
Angela Zagarella currently teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced Italian at Portland State University. Her areas of interests are Literature of Migration and Mediterranean Studies, Italian culture and civilization, language teaching pedagogy and second language acquisition.
A native of Sicily, Italy and a migrant herself,she is driven to her work in the area of migration by the desire to reflect on her own identity and to understand the changes that have occurred in Italian society, in the last 30 years. She writes "When I left my country, I put all remembrances neatly in the drawer of my memory. At every return, I expected to find everything exactly as I had left it. But every time I opened that drawer, the content had been rearranged and I, as a result, remained disoriented."
Angela is very active in the Italian community and is one of the organizers of the Portland Italian Film Festival. She is a member of the Associazione Culturale Italiana, has been the co-excutive director of the Portland Bologna Sister City Association, is on the board of the Italian Benvenuti Club Foundation and is the President of the Oregon chapter of Sicilia Mondo, which promotes Sicilian culture and tradition all over the world.
Vincent Chirimwami, Board Member
Vincent Chirimwami is a native Congolese who immigrated to the United States in 2004. He was naturalized United Stated citizen in 2012. Many of the things that he has accomplished include receiving a B.A. in Liberal Studies from Portland State University and two Master's degrees in Education and Conflict Resolution from Portland State University. For the past 7 years, he has been working as secondary teacher at Beaverton School District and has co-published book chapters and journal articles related to dialogue and reconciliation process. Equally important, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Public Policy and Administration with a focus on Public Management and Leadership at Walden University. He is excited to join the Portland Meet Portland Board to contribute to its mission of welcoming and befriending newcomer refugees/immigrants from around the world in a sense that they feel at home.
See Yo Htoo, Youth Leader Board Member
See Yo, has worked with PMP since February 2016. During that time she has interpreted for Karen citizenship classes, organized fundraisers and participated in 2016 SummerWorks Youth Leadership Intensive. She came back for 2nd years as an intern with SummerWorks because she wanted to gain administrative skills. See Yo offers the cross cultural perspective and is driven to succeed that many refugee youth bring to our community. See Yo and her family arrived in Portland in June 2008 from a refugee camp in Thailand, where she was born. Her family came to the refugee camp from Karen State in Burma/Myanmar in 1992. See Yo just graduated from David Douglas High School and is going to PCC this fall and transferring to PSU after 2 year to study in Criminal Justice.
Moussa Sangre, Board Member
Moussa Sangare was born and raised in Dakar, Senegal in a very large, close-knit, family. Moussa has been living in the U.S. for five years and is currently the President of the Senegalese Association of Oregon and SW Washington. He strives for personal and economic growth and in doing so he is an advocate for networking and small business entrepreneurial.
Moussa holds a Bachelor degree in Human resources from Senegal and is able to utilize his degree in United States. Since 2016. He has been working for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare as a Recruiter and is very compassionate about helping people that suffer from mental health challenging by providing a good quality staffing.
Qudsia Ashan, Board Member
Susi Steinmann, Co-Founder
Susi is the Co-Founder and former Executive Director. She is now focusing her efforts on development for PMP. Susi grew up in Switzerland in a bilingual and multicultural household. She immigrated to the United States as a high school student and has personally experienced the adjustment challenges to a foreign, complex cultural and new language system in the United States. Like most newcomers, she never fully gave up her foreign identity and has pursued a lifelong passion for community building and working for the last thirty years with culturally and linguistically diverse populations – overseas in Africa and the Middle East, and currently in “her back yard” in the Portland area. Since 2008, Susi has worked with culturally diverse communities in Portland and has supported mutual the cross-cultural learning of immigrants and refugees in partnership with inspiring mentor-volunteers who have welcomed, educated and empowered newcomers from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. She believes that mentors together with their immigrant or refugee families build trusting relationships with are our community’s most important and least understood human assets for real community integration, development and peace.
Kay Reid, Co-Founder and Lived Citizenship Project Director
Kay Reid has devoted much of her life to seeking out and recording the unknown stories of individuals and organizations—what they have given this world, what they’ve fought for in bad times and good. She’s recorded and written the stories of legislators, oyster growers, and refugees. She’s told the stories of those who live on the town’s periphery and those in its centers of power. Kay has often worked in what Jane Addams called “the social claim” to achieve justice, fairness, and peace. She has directed several major oral history programs in the Pacific Northwest, including Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times thorough the Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University. She has great admiration for individuals and families who have built their lives, dreams, and neighborhoods against unlikely odds.