The City of Portland’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) is honored to announce its second cohort of the Natural Helpers program. While receiving many applications to join the program, 14 were selected, representing eight countries of origin, from Angola to Peru. OEO launched the Natural Helpers Leadership Program in February 2020, a national best practice, to connect community members to resources and opportunities in order to foster a greater sense of belonging in all aspects of life in Portland.
“Natural helpers all over Portland already help connect new arrivals to resources such as finding a doctor, enrolling children in school, learning about ethnic food stores, childcare resources, job opportunities, legal services, transportation, housing, and more,” said Julia Trujillo Luengo, OEO Director. But the program “will further help them formalize their leadership skills, draw on their own lived experiences, connect with others in different communities and enhance their awareness of the many resources that exist in our city.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the inaugural cohort of Natural Helpers were instrumental to provide key information to their communities, translate and proofread messaging in various languages, and problem-solve along OEO to address the immediate and ongoing needs of so many. “We could not be happier about the outcomes of the first cohort and could not wait to recruit a second group of helpers,” Trujillo added.
A hearty congratulations to the 2021 Natural Helpers cohort. They include: Vanuza Fernanda Mateus, Samar Ahmed, Emilia Armindo Franco, Rita Achiro, Lawum Kayamba, Sahra Ahmed, Weni Mezan, Mariam Mohamed, Narciso Miguel, Abbey Mitchell, Victoria Chicon, Beny Lumanika, Patrick Kiruhura, and Henrique Futi Malonda.
The 2021 Natural Helpers Program is possible because of a grant from the Maine Community Foundation. The program will kick-off on October 27, 2020 with a ceremony attended by several City Councilors, City staff, and community leaders at Lincoln Park. Natural Helpers will receive four days of training. Two will be dedicated to a formal leadership training by University of Southern Maine and the last two days participants will learn in detail about the resources available around the city. There will be a graduation ceremony tentatively scheduled for February 2, 2021.