#NAHM17: Nichole Maher

What do you feel brought you to your cause and was there a personal connection or cultural teaching that sparked your initial interest?
A phrase I’ve heard several times that has really stuck with me is “The people are beautiful already.” I’m not sure where it comes from, but it’s something I deeply believe in. Traveling around the region, visiting lots of different communities, it’s clear to me that we all already have what we need. As long as a community can practice self-determination, the smallest amount of support has a huge impact. I saw this firsthand when I was at the Native American Youth and Family Center, and I put it into action now at Northwest Health Foundation.

What motivates you to stay involved?
The change we can make on the local level. When communities have the resources to run their own policy campaigns and candidates, we’ve seen incredible results. For example, this past legislative session Oregon passed Cover All Kids, extending healthcare to all children, including undocumented children. Without the hard work, leadership and stories of community members most impacted, this bill never would have passed. In the past year, we’ve also seen Oregon’s first Latina immigrant representative elected to our state legislature, Oregon’s first elected majority Latino school board, as well as more school board members of color across the state than ever before. Given Oregon’s demographics, this is long overdue. We intend to continue supporting community-led organizations to develop leaders and run campaigns, so our communities can keep building power for better lives and futures for all of us.

What’s your advice to those who want to learn more about your cause but aren’t sure how to get involved?
Show up. Show up to community and committee meetings, forums and hearings. As long as you show up, and do what you say you’re going to do, you’ll probably become a leader.

Become a member of Native Americans in Philanthropy here.

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