01 Dec 2022
New Bridges for Haitian Success Creates Pathways
For many immigrants, including the more than 150 new Haitian refugees that recently arrived in Rhode Island, the transition to American culture and their new surroundings can be a difficult one. Often there are financial challenges, lack of resources, emotional trauma, language barriers and more.
New Bridges for Haitian Success (NB4HS), a non-profit organization based in Providence, strives to address these challenges by offering critical programs, services, and tools to help Haitian immigrants navigate the system, assimilate to life in Rhode Island and create a pathway to success.
“Our program is designed to give (Haitian immigrants) the skill set they need to be successful in this country,” said William Bentley, NB4HS program consultant. “We’re building a bridge needed that will lead to a successful transition from Haiti to life in Rhode Island.”
Led by a culturally competent staff, NB4HS addresses the needs of the Haitian community by offering an array of programs, resources, and referrals annually to more than 8,000 Haitian and Afro-Caribbean immigrants who now call Rhode Island home. These critical services include bilingual adult education and literacy, legal services, food, housing and other basic needs assistance, financial literacy, and job training, employment skills development, employment placement and more.
At the top of the list is breaking the language barrier. Learning to speak English, a new language for Haitians who speak Creole, is perhaps the biggest challenge the Haitian immigrants have faced when entering America. Few, if any, Haitian immigrants who have arrived in Rhode Island speak English.
“Learning English is so essential. Without it you can’t succeed. It’s the first step we must take,” said Bernard Georges, executive director of NB4HS. “For many of these people, English language acquisition is the most challenging hurdle they face. ”
With the support from the Papitto Opportunity Connection, NB4HS is now able to expand its bilingual adult education programs and create a new curriculum that will allow NB4HS to be an initial language learning program site for Haitian-Creole speakers, providing them with the basic skill set needed to be successful in an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Language) program.
According to Georges, a review of the recent literature, and observations by staff, clearly indicate that native speakers who have achieved a defined level of native language literacy enjoy significantly better outcomes learning English through the ESOL curriculum used across the United States.
“We had the plan, but we didn’t have the resources to put it in place. Now we do. We are very excited to have the opportunity to put this program in place,” said Bentley.
Georges said NB4HS is developing a bilingual native language literacy curriculum that will provide native Haitian-Creole speakers who are illiterate or have low native language literacy skills achieve an identified native language literacy level to provide the skills that will improve, significantly, the learners’ success with English language acquisition through established ESOL learning sites. This project will allow NB4HS to be an initial language learning program site for Haitian-Creole speakers, providing them with the basic skill set needed to be successful in an ESOL program.
For George, who immigrated to Rhode Island from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the POC support means even more.
“We have lived in silence for so long. This (POC funding) helps gives us a voice.” George emphasized, “We can’t leave our people behind.”