Local leaders, community members celebrate Bienestar de la Familia’s 20th anniversary

August 27, 2018

Siyat Mohamed was just 12 years old when he first got involved with Bienestar de la Familia, a Department of County Human Services program in the Cully neighborhood.

As a member of Bienestar, he participated in Sí Se Puede (Yes You Can) with a handful of his peers. The after school program connects youth with tutors and mentors and helps get them involved in community service projects. 

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury was a featured speaker at Bienestar's 20th anniversary celebration.

Today, Mohamed is a soccer coach for one of Bienestar’s partners, Hacienda Community Development Corporation, which allows him to give back to the community that helped him when he was a child. Because of Bienestar, he says, he wants to pursue a career helping others.

Mohamed is just one of many who received recognition at Bienestar’s 20th Anniversary on Friday, Aug. 24. The celebration honored the program’s history as an institution in the Cully community and featured speeches from County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Special guests included Commissioner Sharon Meieran, Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, Commissioner Elect Susheela Jayapal, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, and staff from Governor Kate Brown’s Office.

“Thanks to the hard work of Bienestar and its partners, this community has addressed many of the serious issues that it faced 20 years ago, reducing education disparities and creating opportunities for youth and families to get the care they need,” Chair Kafoury told an audience of community members and local leaders.

Bienestar helps improve outcomes for Multnomah County’s diverse populations--especially the Somali and Latino communities. The program’s goals include reducing poverty, promoting health and wellness, and fostering educational success for youth. 

"Bienestar de la Familia demonstrates what happens when we embrace programs for the people, where they are," Mayor Wheeler said. "This team serves thousands of families every year."

Siyat Mohamed participated in Bienestar while he was growing up. Now he's a soccer coach for Hacienda Community Development Corporation.

The program began in 1998 as an effort among Latino leaders to support the local Latino population. The goal was to improve access to health and human services tailored to the community’s cultural and language needs.

Early on, staff did outreach in local laundry rooms and mobile trailers. Over the years, the program has grown to serve thousands of families. Along the way, it’s embraced Portland’s evolving immigrant and refugee populations.

Last year, the program served more than 1,500 households, with projects ranging from parent education and support groups, to after-school programs. Another 1,600 households accessed fresh food from Bienestar’s monthly “Mercado” harvest share.

Staff work in tandem with a number of community partners, including Hacienda CDC, Oregon Food Bank, OSU Extension, Portland Public Schools and the Portland Police Bureau.

Bienestar also shares a space with La Clinica de Buena Salud, a Health Department clinic providing culturally-appropriate primary care services. The clinic welcomes more than 2,000 patients and receives more than 7,400 visits each year.

At the celebration, staff honored dozens of the program’s original participants who received support as children. “We at the County feel great pride to have been a part of these young people's formative years, and to have worked alongside their family members in achieving their goals in an meaningful and equitable way,” said Department of County Human Services Director Peggy Brey.

The event included performances from Los Borikuas, a Puerto Rican band that plays Caribbean music, and Iftin Band, a Somali music group. The afternoon also featured Zumba and salsa dancing, along with a performance from the Metropolitan Youth Symphony.

As leaders reflected on Bienestar’s long history, they looked forward to positive outcomes for future generations.

“This afternoon, we celebrate those who participated in Bienestar de la Familia as children 15-20 years ago and are now earning college degrees, entering the workforce, and starting families of their own,” Chair Kafoury said.