The inspiring effects of Innocent at the County: Transforming Lives, One Project at a Time

By: Edman Wong, College to County Intern

Innocent Kisanga (he/him/his) grew up in Tanzania and moved to Portland to attend Lincoln High School during his Junior year. When asked about his transition to Portland he said, “It was a transformative experience, it was exposure to new ideas, perspectives, and culture”.

Innocent Kisanga
Innocent Kisanga

Shortly after, he began studying public health at Portland State University (PSU). As a student at PSU, Innocent learned about the College to County (C2C) program and applied successfully to an internship at Multnomah County’s Department of County Human Services (DCHS). Last summer, Multnomah County’s Department of County Human Services (DCHS) hosted 18 C2C interns, the highest number of placements among all departments in the County.

 Innocent’s internship began in DCHS’ Aging Disability & Veterans Services Division (ADVSD) and focused on community services. Innocent worked closely with the safety net programs focusing on housing assistance, particular medical needs, and emergency prescription assistance.

When asked, “what did you learn in this role?” Innocent said, “I think it required a lot of project management skills and the ability to be organized. I had to translate and organize physical and non-physical materials for tenants who spoke different languages”.

One of Innocent’s most notable projects was the Disaster Earthquake Kit Project. He essentially helped build and distribute earthquake disaster kits to support housing providers who were working on their earthquake preparedness plans for their tenants. 

Innocent partnered with Cascadia Ready, a Portland-based, women-owned, company whose mission is to prepare the Pacific Northwest communities for potential earthquakes with kits made by the organization. 

He also coordinated with the Immigration & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) whose primary mission is to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants, and the community at large into a self-sufficient, healthy, and inclusive multi-ethnic society. IRCO mainly provided language access services in this project helping break language barriers for communities being served. 

Since then, Innocent has changed from an intern to a full-time Program Technician position with the County while continuing to work for ADVSD.

Lynn Schemmer-Valleau, one of his managers, made these comments. “Inno was a wonderful intern.  His initiative and “How can I help?” attitude was valued by the ADVSD Community Services Team.”  “He asked great questions and then worked on his assigned tasks and projects until completion.  He was a tremendous asset to our team!  And to highlight the success of the C2C program and our amazing intern, Inno, we were thrilled when he applied for a regular position on our team!  Inno is now a full-time employee with ADVSD Community Services, as a Program Technician for our Money Management Program!”  

“In the near future, my career goal is to continue developing skills and experience in order to one day be able to build programs and applications that solve problems at the micro-community level,” says Innocent.