By Olivia Christensen
Here at GIFF, one of our core values has always been philanthropy. We wholeheartedly believe in giving back to the Connecticut community, so when organizations faced severe economic impact after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, philanthropy became more important than ever. GIFF’s overall mission to bridge the worlds of art and philanthropy was preserved by awarding grants through our Community Impact Awards to various organizations whose motives not only align with ours, but whose influence on the community is inspiring, rewarding, and beneficial to those in need. One of those organizations is Building One Community (B1C), a center for immigrant opportunity. We recently paid a visit to B1C and were able to check in with the leaders to discover what they are up to today.
B1C first opened in 2011 with the intention of being a “welcoming entry point for newcomers from all parts of the world.” The executives at B1C explained to us that “on that day, immigrants who relied on a patchwork of services in a system that didn’t fully understand their needs – and those who went without any help at all – discovered a place that was created with them in mind.” GIFF is thrilled to play a part in helping B1C achieve their “mission to advance the successful integration of immigrants and their families.” We were lucky enough to interview Building One Community’s executives, Elena Perez Moreno and Anka Badurina, about the deeper details of their operation.
What program at Building One gathers the most traction?
All of our programs span four areas of importance – all with equal traction and vary by significance from year to year. For example, pre-pandemic, pandemic, and post-pandemic each had different programs and service needs.
Our areas of importance include:
Educate – Developing language skills is an important step on the path to opportunity. That’s why English and Adult Literacy are a priority at B1C. We offer a free, flexible curriculum, including a special class to prepare for U.S. citizenship.
Employ – B1C’s Skills Development program prepares immigrants for jobs in industries that have high local demand and high growth potential. Once trained, we also help individuals get hired through our referral service, which connects local employers and homeowners with skilled workers for daily or extended employment.
Empower – We connect our clients with schools, health, legal, law enforcement, and other vital services. Our Family & Individual Services assist with many of the challenges people face in navigating a new country and a new community, from school to work to healthcare system. Our growing Immigration Legal Services department provides high-quality, low-cost immigration services. This also includes a new removal defense department.
Engage – We offer people who care deeply about immigration the opportunity to help immigrants succeed in our community. Program partners and volunteers foster cross-cultural understanding.
What did the Greenwich International Film Festival’s $20,000 Community Impact Award mean to Building One and what did the grant go to support?
Greenwich International Film Festival’s $20,000 Community Impact Award had a tremendous impact on B1C’s Workforce Development Program (WDP), which advances the integration of immigrants in the workforce through comprehensive, research-based courses and services that prepare them for living wage work, propelling them towards self-sufficiency. Not only does the WDP address a pressing need in the immigrant community, it also answers a need of local employers that rely on a trained immigrant workforce to continue providing services that families in Fairfield County towns like Greenwich rely on (i.e., childcare, housecleaning, landscaping, construction, etc.).
The WDP helps immigrants upskill in a number of ways. One way is through stackable Skills Development courses in areas where the demand for trained workers keeps growing (Home Health Aides) or where there is a consistent need for trained labor (Culinary & Catering, Construction & Landscaping). In addition to these flagship programs, the WDP offers immigrants a wide array of other courses and services to continue improving their skills and knowledge. These include:
Vocational English (VE): Providing work-related English language instruction that is essential to their success at work.
Soft Skills Courses: Financial Literacy and Technology Literacy Programs complement fill in existing gaps and helping immigrants strengthen skills that are useful for all professions.
Information Technology (IT) Lending Library: Provides access to devices including Chromebooks (of which B1C has 75), headsets (55), and Wi-Fi hotspots (50) that are lent to B1C participants together with coaching on how to use them.
Hiring Site: The Hiring Site helps match B1C participants with employers and an agreed upon fair wage. It also provides interpretation services, if needed. These efforts result in networking, internship, and job opportunities for our workers.
Immigrant Entrepreneur Incubator (IEI): This opportunity supports a growing cadre of immigrants starting or expanding businesses with 15 hours of small business workshops and three months of business mentoring by industry experts. The coursework includes scalable business planning, business structure, business credit, time management, recordkeeping, taxes, insurance, and business-specific topics. Seed money awards are available for those who complete the program, and help to kick start their businesses.
Unpaid Wages Clinic: The clinic, staffed by a volunteer attorney and a B1C staff member, helps facilitate the process for workers to recover wages unjustly withheld by employers. Services include writing demand letters, supporting workers in filing small claims cases, and preparing testimony.
Job Search Clinic: The clinic offers participants career-related workshops as well as virtual one-on-one assistance with job searching, resume writing, and interview preparation.
In 2021 B1C served approximately 3,500 participants organization-wide while the Workforce Development Program served 350 participants with 1,750 touchpoints.
How can people get involved and support your organization?
We are always looking for volunteers to bring their skills and talents to our programs. Here are just a few ways individuals, families, and faith or civic groups can get involved.
● Tutor or teach adult immigrants English
● Help someone practice for their citizenship exam
● Become a translator or interpreter for parent-teacher conferences
● Professional skills in marketing, human resources, research, and other fields are always
welcome! Youth Volunteers:
● Join our youth-led volunteer group on Saturday mornings or help with our Homework Club on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons. We also offer tutoring opportunities in various programs, and internships may also be available.
● Host Family Night or a special event. As a sponsor, you’ll be asked to provide food, drinks, entertainment, and maybe a craft for children.
● Join us at our 7th Annual Colloquium at Stamford Yacht Club on September 8th, 2022. This event brings together the community to learn about immigrants’ challenges as they make their way to the United States and Connecticut. Learn more at https://building1community.org/colloquium/
If you are interested in volunteering opportunities, please contact email@example.com.
B1C also offers a volunteer booklet that shares our latest volunteer opportunities – https://simplebooklet.com/volunteerbooklet2022.
To learn more about Building One Community and their mission impact, visit https://building1community.org/.
Thank you to the team at Building One Community for allowing GIFF to do a site visit and interview with the executive team!