"We fundraised $200,000 for this effort and reinvested over 85% of it back into the community by working directly with immigrant and refugee business owners and staff."
I remember that Friday, on March 13th, when there were rumors about the schools possibly closing. When our staff asked what we would do if the kids didn't go to school anymore, I couldn’t imagine how we could stay relevant and useful to our families if we were not able to welcome the kids to our center in the afternoons.
For our lead staff, it was overwhelming to think about how to keep supporting our kids, their families, our team, ourselves and our own families as the world stepped into the unknown. The phones were ringing non-stop and most of the kids seemed worried. The uncertainty center-side was palpable and scary.
The next day, Governor Cooper announced that schools were closing for two weeks. Our lead team immediately got together to brainstorm next steps. The first thing we did was call our families and see how they were doing, what were their biggest concerns. We learned that 80% of our families had already lost at least one source of income, and therefore food insecurity was their biggest worry. We decided that we would dedicate every effort and resource available to try to take that worry off our families’ shoulders.
The two weeks became the rest of the year, and while part of our staff got back to work creating a support system for the kids to be able to get connected to their remote classes, the rest of our team of twenty-five employees started bringing CMS Grab N' Go bags to the neighborhoods. They worked throughout the summer and fall and by November 2020, they had distributed 140,000 breakfasts, lunches, and culturally-appropriate dinners and grocery bags to hundreds of families throughout Charlotte. We fundraised $200,000 for this effort and reinvested over 85% of it back into the community by working directly with immigrant and refugee business owners and staff.
When schools started online, we readjusted our programs and welcomed students back as a Trauma-Informed Remote Learning Site, welcoming 100 kids to our center from 7:45 am - 4:30 pm so that they could connect and receive all the support they needed to succeed in the virtual learning world. We went back to afterschool when kids were able to be present at schools last March.
It was a year of challenges. We are thankful for all the lessons learned and for the partners we made along the way.
- Sil Ganzó
ourBRIDGE for KIDS is the only non-faith based organization in Charlotte and surrounding areas that attends to the academic and socio-emotional needs of refugee and immigrant children and their families. Our trauma-informed programs are based on our four core values of LERD (Love, Education, Respect, and Diversity), and specifically designed to support ELL (English Language Learners) students and their families as they adjust to a new home in the United States. At ourBRIDGE, students receive homework help, individual literacy tutoring, engage in a culturally relevant curriculum that is developed in-house and emphasizes experiential, hands-on learning. Our students and their families are part of a welcoming, loving, and healing-centered community that is inclusive of their cultural identity and inherited knowledge.