FutureHeights grant benefits refugee-outreach efforts
The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System has received a FutureHeights Neighborhood Mini-Grant in the amount of $875 to help pay for its Driver’s Education Scholarships for Refugees program at its Noble Neighborhood branch.
Cleveland Heights’ Noble neighborhood is home to roughly 300 legally resettled refugees, the majority of whom are Nepali speakers from Nepal and Bhutan. The library already offers support services to the community through a variety of programs such as English classes, citizenship classes, and the drop-in Welcome Hub, which offers refugees and immigrants an informal space where they can find resources and fellowship.
“Since I started working with the refugee community here at Heights Libraries, I’ve heard from the community’s representatives that a lack of access to transportation holds the group back in many ways,” said Stephen Sanders, adult services librarian. “We hope this program will help the refugee community here in at least two ways. First, having the ability to transport themselves will open up more employment opportunities for them. Instead of having to look for work within walking distance of their homes, they can look for work a bit farther afield. Second, once a few members of the community have obtained their driver’s licenses, they can use their experience to help others do the same.”
The grant money will help provide scholarships to pay for driving instruction for five adult participants who have their temporary driving permits. Lessons will be provided by Heights Driving School, a local business.
In addition to expanding job opportunities, the ability to drive will also give refugees expanded access to shopping, childcare, and places outside of their immediate neighborhood.
“I think that a community as diverse as Cleveland Heights will only benefit from seeing these refugees around town,” said Sanders. “They would no longer just be 'those refugees on the other side of town;’ they would be visible members of the community.”
Sheryl Banks is the communications manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.