Spring 2020 Grant Recipient: Building Hope in the City

grant announcement 

for March 30, 2020

The Hope Center for Refugees and Immigrants is a ministry of Building Hope in the City, a nonprofit in Cleveland, Ohio. The Hope Center fulfills a critical need in Greater Cleveland by providing long-term support services to assist refugees and immigrants in becoming integrated and thriving members of our community.

The Digital Life and Learning Lab is about removing barriers to refugee integration and sustainability in two important ways. First, by establishing a digital learning lab at our refugee and immigrant drop-in center, and second, initiating in 2020 a new refugee internship program to give young adult refugees opportunities to develop workplace skills.

First, this initiative addresses the lack of access to computers and the internet (the “digital divide”) for low-income refugees and immigrants in Cleveland. The new Digital Life and Learning Lab will be installed at The Hope Center for Refugees and Immigrants as a means of providing the following:

  • Equitable access – Many low-income families that utilize the Hope Center don’t have home access to a computer and the digital learning lab seeks to bridge that gap.
  • Online job search and application access – Many employers now ONLY accept inquiries online.
  • Educational enrichment – The Lab will deepen the Center’s ongoing educational offerings in English language skills, citizenship prep, Adult Diploma Program and homework help for school-aged students. The Center already offers classes or programs for all these areas, but has no computer-based offerings to enrich and supplement these programs.
  • Family communication and reunification – Many refugee families in Cleveland are separated from other family members who remain in refugee camps or have been resettled elsewhere across the globe. Access to technology would enable greater communication with families, both for important relational connections and for reunifications and other legal issues.

The Digital Learning Lab will be installed at The Hope Center by converting an existing library space into two spaces: a small classroom and a separate, dedicated computer lab with 5-6 computers and all related equipment (printer, wireless access, router, etc.).

Second, this project will also provide a stipend for at least two young adult refugee interns to assist with operating the Digital Learning Lab and the Hope Center’s Café area, where refugees awaiting the start of classes and programs can gather to enjoy beverages, snacks and meaningful connection and conversation. The interns will work 6-8 hours per week in the Lab and Café, learning how to manage supplies, orient first-time visitors, provide interpretation, troubleshoot equipment issues, and more. They will also participate in The Hope Center staff meetings and leadership development trainings. These paid internships will provide mentorship, teach invaluable workplace skills, and increase the intern’s employability elsewhere, so they can launch to even greater workforce opportunities.

We are asking for $30,000 for renovation and installation of the Digital Learning Lab, as well as to kick start the internship program. Please see submitted budget for a more detailed cost analysis of this project. The timeline for the project is based upon receipt of funds, but the hope is that the Lab will be installed and operational by end of summer 2020. The interns would also be hired upon opening of the Lab.

Initiative Anticipated Impact and Outcomes:

  • The Hope Center serves 250+ people weekly that will now have regular and consistent access to technology and the internet.
  • The presence of the Digital Learning Lab anticipates an increased number of daily visitors to the Hope Center. More daily visits increases opportunities for registering students for our many classes and offerings.
  • Consistent access to online-only employment application processes will increase job placements through the Hope Center.
  • Increased rates of academic achievement and English language acquisition for adult and school-aged learners will lead to higher levels of employability and increased measures of school success.
  • The Hope Center will naturally be more culturally attuned, as the interns will be hired directly from our refugee and immigrant populations, allowing their invaluable input to the Center and those served.
  • The internship program will teach invaluable workplace skills, including time management, flexibility, team participation, problem solving and communication. These skills will allow the interns to become more marketable in their future careers, launching them to greater long-term success in the workforce.

Initiative Sustainability Plan:

Many of the project costs are one-time startup costs related to renovations and the purchase of lab equipment and technology. Annual operating costs for the Digital Learning Lab and the internship program will be continued after this project through fundraising initiatives, including donor appeals to individuals, grant writing and special events. The Digital Learning Lab will continue to be a priority and be funded through these fundraising efforts. The organization is also increasing its own overall self-sustainability through profit-generating social enterprise ventures, allowing us to become more self-sufficient into the future. In addition, as interns “graduate” to greater employment opportunities, we will be able to fill those spots with new interns, thereby allowing that portion of the project to continue serving more refugees.

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