Our Founder

Our Founder, Kayse Jama

Kayse Jama was born into a nomad family in Somalia. He left when the civil war erupted, and finally found sanctuary in Portland. From 2005 to 2007, he trained immigrant and refugee community leaders in five Western states — Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah and Idaho — under a prestigious New Voices Fellowship at Western States Center. In 2002, he founded the Center for Intercultural Organizing, which later became Unite Oregon in 2016, after merging with Oregon Action.

Kayse has been awarded the Skidmore Prize for outstanding young nonprofit professionals (2007), the Oregon Immigrant Achievement Award from Oregon chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (2008), the 2009 Lowenstein Trust Award, which is presented yearly to “that person who demonstrated the greatest contribution to assisting the poor and underprivileged in Portland,” and the 2012 Portland Peace Prize.

In 2021, Kayse stepped down as Executive Director after his appointment to serve as Oregon State Senator for Senate District 24, representing East Portland and Clackamas.