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A sunny Seattle summer welcome to our newest team member!

Headshot of OIRA Community Outreach and Program Specialist Luanda Hassan Arai

Luanda Hassan Arai, Community Engagement and Programs Specialist

I am thrilled to join the City of Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) team as the newest Community Outreach and Program Specialist.

I have actually been an immigrant twice. I was born and spent the first eight years of my life in a working-class neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Then, my family moved to the UK and settled in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in South East London. I spent six formative years among neighbors and friends from all over the world. As a teenager, my family moved to the U.S., following my father’s side of the family who had immigrated here during the years we were in London.

High school in suburban South King County proved to be quite the culture shock. My peers weren’t sure what to make of me, with my unusual name and British accent (which has long since morphed into a Seattle accent). I was lucky that, even though I was different, I wasn’t too different by their standards. I was able to fit in enough to avoid some of the overt discrimination my brothers and parents suffered in the U.S. As I prepared to graduate from high school, my immigration status became uncertain. The nagging fear of deportation was compounded by the targeting of people of Arab descent for additional immigration scrutiny following September 11, 2001. I assumed there were no resources available to my family and me. And I was too afraid to explore our options.

Had OIRA, or Leadership Without Borders existed back then, countless immigrants and I may have been able to come out of the shadows sooner. I am humbled and excited to continue to build on the team’s incredible work and look forward to partnering with community members throughout Seattle.

I have lived in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood since 2005 and have grown to love this city and call it home. I married into a family with deep roots in the Central District, spent formative years in the University District and Capitol Hill communities, and am constantly amazed by and curious about what Seattle and its residents have to offer. Find me in line at one of our world-class bakeries, catching a Concert at the Mural, running the Discovery Park loop, watching the sunset at the Olympic Sculpture Park, birdwatching at the Montlake Fill, eating dumplings in the ID, or shopping at the University District Farmers Market.