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Jul 11, 2017

Employee Spotlight— Eca-Etabo Wasongolo

Eca-Etabo Wasongolo bends down and picks an amaranth plant that is growing in a Village Gardens’ plot on Sauvie Island. Three families grow the vegetable, along with many other African vegetables, as part of the Village Gardens’ Market Gardener Program.

Designed to support families in launching a small farm business, the Market Gardener Program provides donated land, free water, vegetable starts, tilling support and business training. Wasongolo has been the community organizer at Village Gardens for seven years and, more recently, working with the Market Gardener families to help them launch their small businesses. “Village Gardens helps each family business define their goals and work with them on each step, beginning with planning their garden, preparing the garden beds, harvesting and taking the produce to market,” says Wasongolo.

Market Gardeners sell at the New Columbia and St. Johns Farmers Markets and Village Market. As the vegetables get ready for harvest, Wasongolo shows gardeners how to trim, weigh, bundle and price the vegetables for sale at the Farmers Market. The families in the Market Gardener program are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. They grow hard-to-find vegetables from their native countries in Africa, such as fresh amaranth, mbonga bujungu or “MB veggie”— as well as African eggplants, kale, peas, cabbage, beans, squash and tomatoes.

Wasongolo, along with other Village Gardens staff, is a critical link in helping each gardener and their families learn the skills necessary to run a successful small farm business. His role as a Community Organizer for Village Gardens is to work alongside Community Leaders who live in Cathedral Gardens, New Columbia and Tamaracks Apartment affordable housing communities to support leadership in community-led food projects. In addition to the Market Gardener Program on Sauvie Island, Wasongolo also collaborates with residents on the Seeds of Harmony Community Garden and Fruits of Diversity orchard in New Columbia and the New Beginnings Garden in Cathedral Gardens.

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Jan 18, 2018
Employee Spotlight—Washington Outreach Specialists

Every day our Outreach Specialists in Washington are busy serving homeless youth who have no one else to turn to. The team of three staff—Keeva Haverkost, Jessica Villasenor, and Jean Withers—work like a well-oiled machine, supporting each other so they can provide high quality service to youth. All of them are passionate about their work. Bettina Boles, Program Supervisor of The Perch and Yellow Brick Road Washington, says of her team, “Each person brings their unique contribution and special reason to work as an Outreach Specialist.” According to Bettina, the team has multifaceted roles— hosting The Perch—our drop-in center for youth—conducting street outreach for Yellow Brick Road, Washington and leading educational presentations that help the community better understand human trafficking and its impact in Clark County.

Jan 09, 2018
Youth Spotlight—Noah Schultz and his” Inspiring Action Tour”

Noah Schultz is a 25-year old graduate of the Hope Partnership program who served 7.5 years in the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA). While at the MacLaren Correctional Facility, Noah received two Bachelor of Arts degrees. Since his release in October 2016, he has become an outspoken youth advocate, with a passion to drive reform in our justice system, inspiring hope, action and humanizing the stories of the incarcerated. In November 2017, Noah completed a two-month “Inspiring Action Tour” at ten correctional facilities throughout the U.S. where he showed the award-winning documentary film about him, “Perception from Prison to Purpose.” He is co-owner of Forgotten Culture Clothing and co-founder of Verbal Escape. Noah spoke to us about his tour.

Dec 18, 2017
Sixth Grader Organizes Sock Drive For Janus Youth

Eleven-year old Quentin Brown organized a winter sock drive at his school, Cascade Heights Public Charter School, collecting 582 pairs of socks for our youth. This is his second year organizing the sock drive.

 Last year, Janus awarded Quentin the “Stars for Kids Award” for his contributions to our youth. Each year on his birthday, Quentin asks family members to give him gifts that he can donate to Portland’s homeless youth. Rather than getting toys and games, Quentin gets socks, water bottles, hats and scarfs that he packs up in a bin and brings down to the Janus administrative office. Last year, he even brought a little piggy bank with all of his savings and gave it to Janus. He has been doing this for seven years now. By thinking of the needs of others, he sets an example for his peers, family and community, showing the impact kids have on helping other kids. Quentin demonstrates that acts of kindness can be cultivated at a young age. 

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