NEW HOME. The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organizationís Asian
Family Center has a new home at 8040 N.E. Sandy Blvd. in Portland. The
center was welcomed last month with an official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
accompanied by tours, stories, and entertainment, including Selina
Shakya (pictured) performing "White Tara," an ancient ritual dance.
(Photo courtesy of the Asian Family Center)
From The Asian Reporter, V22, #11 (June 4, 2012), pages 11 &
A new home for the Asian Family Center
By Josephine Bridges
The Asian Reporter
The first clue that the Immigrant and Refugee Community
Organizationís Asian Family Center (AFC) open house was well-attended
was the difficulty finding parking in the vicinity of 8040 N.E. Sandy
Blvd. on a Friday afternoon in mid-May. I was running late, worried
about missing opening remarks, when I suddenly realized that the
presence of all those cars was a good thing.
With the help of AFC staff who were directing people to parking
places ó these folks think of everything ó I made it to the centerís
jam-packed community room right on time.
AFC board chair Chanpone Sinlapasai-Okamura and director Lee Po Cha
welcomed guests to the new home of the Asian Family Center, which spent
its first 18 years in a former morgue building about half the size of
the new facility.
"I am honored to be standing before you all," said Sinlapasai-Okamura.
"Each of you should be so proud of making a contribution to so many
lives. I was a refugee, and this was an agency that made a difference."
Director Cha also expressed gratitude to those in attendance,
especially the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Catholic
Charities, Lutheran Family Services, and Meyer Memorial Trust. "You
wanted to make a difference in the most vulnerable populations in our
region," he said. "Thank you for your kindness."
The first of many dance performances was an ancient ritual dance,
"White Tara," performed by Selina Shakya of Dance Mandal to bless the
new building. The solemnity of dignified movement punctuated by
stillness reminded those in attendance that while good humor and a light
heart are essential, AFC is engaged in very serious work.
Story sharing by two people who have received help from the center
Jessica Straub, a mother of 12, pointed out, "Itís difficult to ask
for help, but the AFC made it comfortable and easy." When her family
needed assistance with heating and electricity bills, she called the
center and found "more help than I could imagine."
Speaking in Vietnamese, Tien Bui called attention to an AFC program
that helps parents with children younger than five years old by
assisting with health insurance, forms, phone calls, and school
readiness. Happy that the new space is bigger, more comfortable, and
conveniently located, Tien Bui hopes for the centerís continued growth.
The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony followed. AFC board member Ronault L.S.
"Polo" Catalani called up more than a dozen community leaders, city
officials, and others for the symbolic ribbon cutting and talked about
the importance of the centerís culturally specific services.
"This is not the only room we have," said Cha as he encouraged people
to take a tour of the centerís new home. Many of us couldnít tear
ourselves away from a Polynesian youth dance, a traditional Hmong dance,
a contemporary hip-hop Hmong dance, and a traditional Indian dance,
including the AFC director, who remarked, "This is amazing. All our
cultures are so rich. We look so alike, but are so not alike."
Those who were unable to attend the open house and take a guided tour
with the warm and knowledgeable AFC staff are encouraged to visit the
center and learn more about the many programs it offers, including:
Community Health, Children and Parents Success (CAPS), Parent Child
Development Services (PCDS), School Assistance for Refugee Newcomers (SAFRN),
Social and Support Services for Educational Success (SSSES), Upward
Bound TRIO (UBTRIO), Youth Gang Prevention Services (YGPS), Street-Level
Gang Outreach (SGO), Family and Community Engagement Services (FACES),
In School Program for Immigrant and Refugee Education (INSPIRE),
Anti-Poverty Case Management, SUN Community Schools, and more.
Members of the community are always welcome at the Asian Family
Center and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization to learn
more about the available programs. If possible, itís greatly appreciated
if visitors can call ahead to set a time to stop by. For more
information, call (503) 235-9396 or visit <www.irco.org>.
You may not know ó I didnít ó that very few AFC programs have the
stipulation that people must be Asian to receive help. The Asian Family
Center is here for everyone.