By Laura Demée
Local News Reporter
Handprints of each of the center participant is shown above along with their signature. (Photo: building1community.org)
Four rolling dry erase boards move swiftly across the linoleum tiles as English classes are being put into session. The murmur of the Barcelona soccer games plays in the background as day workers catch a game of pool. The line of computers which hug the wall are occupied by their users to complete homework. A warm smile greets their guests as immigrants embrace new found opportunities.
Located in Stamford, CT, Building One Community is a nonprofit organization that helps adjust low income immigrants to their communities. A few of the many services the center offers include ESL classes, free childcare and health services, citizenship courses, and computer classes.
“It is important to understand the needs of the community that you are trying to help by having their “voice” be a part of their programs,” founder Catalina Horak shared with PrideTime.
Her inspiration to begin such an organization stemmed from her own experiences as an immigrant, along with a history of management experience. Being in its 6th year of operation, the center has impacted the many communities around it, such as Stamford, Norwalk, and Bridgeport.
An important staple to the overall program is making sure a proficient level of English is reached. To accomplish this, the center administers an English test when one arrives at the Center. After the level of known English is determined, people are places in classes which meet their needs. Many high school students from neighboring towns volunteer their time to teach beginners, intermediate, and advanced English. The most popular classes are offered on Monday and Wednesday nights from 6-8pm to accommodate the schedule of Day Workers.
Horak made clear that the recent negative stigma towards immigrants filtrated through the media and certain politicians has attracted new donors and volunteers to the program. She stated in an interview. “Our work is more important now than ever and the community around us recognizes it.”
To be apart of Building 1 Community, please visit http://building1community.org/ to sign up to volunteer or donate.