OurBRIDGE: Empowering Refugee And Immigrant Children In Charlotte

Children from war-torn, economically and environmentally disadvantaged countries find comfort at ourBRIDGE, a non-profit after-school program in Plaza Midwood. Sil Ganzo, native Argentinean and founder of ourBRIDGE, said children can “embrace who they are, be confident, improve their self-esteem, and have help with English, and their homework.”

The nonprofit provides an inclusive and welcoming environment. Within the four colorful walls decorated with the children’s drawings, they are free to play and learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related concepts while coping with a new culture, social expectations and exploring their surroundings.

Ganzo founded ourBRIDGE in 2014 after working for a similar for-profit company, In Goode Co. “The owners decided to close the center,” Ganzo said. “I decided to transform the idea for a non-profit. I wanted a cultural and social, emotional component.”

Charlotte is the biggest refugee resettlement city in North Carolina, welcoming 600 refugees annually. The children enrolled at ourBRIDGE are the faces of 40 countries, each equipped with diverse cultures, traditions and languages.

ourBRIDGE services include chauffeuring children from school and home, providing homemade snacks, and individual English and STEM tutor time. Additionally, students receive social and emotional support which include teaching them basic American societal behaviors, as well as experiential learning, where children interact with the community. These services are offered to immigrant, refugee and first-generation children living in nearby neighborhoods.

ourBRIDGE offers an open space to have in-depth conversations about significant events, such as the recent presidential election. Many students asked Sil, “Do I have to go home?” and “Are my parents going to get kicked out?” Volunteers baked an “everything will be OK” cake, a small gesture that made a huge impact on the children.

Originally posted on my blog at theodyssey.