Just over a month ago, the city of Charlotte united for a celebration of the arts called Charlotte SHOUT!– a festival showcasing the power art has to bring people together. Art provides a method of communication through which people of all cultures and backgrounds can express themselves. At OurBridge for Kids, they take this phenomenon and use it to nurture the children of the refugee and immigrant community in our city.
As the largest refugee resettlement city in North Carolina, Charlotte welcomes over 600 individuals in just one year’s time. What some struggle to recognize is that refugee and immigrant children wrestle with uniquely complex struggles such as family separation, life in refugee camps, cultural shock and language barriers, while at the same time, trying to understand a new culture and new social expectations.
The OurBridge for Kids K-8th-grade after-school program is open to children of this flourishing community to provide them a safe place to express themselves and thrive in their new environment. With the help of knowledgeable staff and eager volunteers, children in the program receive daily support targeted towards three of OurBridge for Kid’s identified priorities: English acquisition academic support, emotional support, and cultural awareness.
The program’s efforts are geared towards the arts and literacy – two topics that provide kids a way to express themselves and connect with classmates from other cultures. Walk through the well-loved building and you’ll see walls lined with pictures and quilts created by students. Shelves of books discussing multi-cultural topic books aid in promoting the diversity of the represented students. On Thursdays, the students can participate in groups such as a club that celebrates the art of cooking. The cooking club is another clever way OurBridge for Kids provides opportunities for their students to embrace and share their culture with others and expose them to the diversity of their classmates.
Want to learn more about the immigrant and refugee community in Charlotte and how you can help? OurBridge for Kids hosts festivals and events celebrating diversity in our city. Attend as a volunteer, or just come and have fun while learning more about the melting pot in your backyard.If you’re interested in being a volunteer, go to the website and fill out a form. You’ll be asked to attend a volunteer orientation where you’ll get more information on the best way of getting involved. Lastly, spread the LERD! OurBridge for Kids teaches its students the importance of Love, Education, Respect, and Diversity. Join them in their mission by donating time or funds to their programs. Or, give them some Love and Educate your friends about the message of Respect for Diversity they share every day.