Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Park Champion of the Year: Portland's Som Subedi: Promoting Equity and Inclusion While Ensuring Congressional Support for Parks and Recreation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Park Champion of the Year: Portland's Som Subedi: Promoting Equity and Inclusion While Ensuring Congressional Support for Parks and Recreation

Article excerpt

Each year, NRPA recognizes Park Champion initiative participants with the Park Champion of the Year Award. The recipient of this award, chosen by the NRPA Public Policy Committee, is recognized at NRPA's Annual Conference and receives round-trip lodging and airfare for two in their agency to travel to Washington, D.C., to advocate for parks and recreation on Capitol Hill.

Park Champion Som Subedi is welcoming new immigrants and refugees into the Portland community through Parks for New Portlanders ( An initiative of Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), Parks for New Portlanders works with community partners and local leaders to create programs that ensure park and recreational opportunities are welcoming and accessible to communities of color, immigrants and refugees.

On August 20, 2017, thousands of Portlanders, including refugees, immigrants, and city and elected leaders, were joined by staff from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden's office in participating in the WALK with Refugees and Immigrants. The mile walk in support of a compassionate, generous and welcoming Portland for all who live there was followed by cultural celebrations and performances. Subedi organized the event in partnership with approximately 30 local organizations and Portland's Sunday Parkways ( --a series of free events that promote healthy living, hosted in public spaces. The WALK celebrated immigrants and refugees, affirmed their rights, and honored organizational leaders and advocates. Subedi also organized community donations of school supplies for more than 125 children.

"[Subedi] has a charisma and compassion for others that is exceptional," marvels Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbate. "Not everyone can come to a new country and then have so many connections with different communities."

The WALK with Refugees and Immigrants was an event Subedi had already planned, but, a dedicated advocate for parks and recreation, he turned the walk into a Park Champion event by inviting Portland's congressional representatives. The Park Champion initiative, NRPA's grassroots advocacy program, provides members like Subedi with the tools and resources they need to have their voices heard by their elected federal officials. The Park Champion initiative is an innovative show-and-tell advocacy model that empowers park and recreation agencies to engage their members of Congress with on-site visits and participation in planned events and milestones. Inviting members of Congress to events like the WALK creates meaningful, memorable experiences for elected officials and helps demonstrate the importance of investing in parks and recreation.

"The Park Champion award is one Som richly deserves," says PP&R Equity & Inclusion Manager Art Hendricks. "We at Portland Parks & Recreation are grateful that the NRPA has given him the recognition he does not seek, but has so clearly earned."

Subedi, a former refugee from Bhutan who spent almost 20 years living in a refugee camp in Nepal, understands the isolation and challenges that come with resettling in a new country. As a community advocate, he planned, organized and hosted the now-annual Portland World Cup Soccer Tournament. The cultural tradition of soccer is a universal language, Subedi points out; it unifies and fosters a sense of community for new refugees and immigrants--no matter their origin. …

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