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“To live a better life… That is the immigrant dream” – How a nonprofit creates upward mobility for the Latino community

Camino, a bilingual and multicultural nonprofit in the Charlotte area, has a mission of equipping people to live healthy, hopeful, and productive lives. They equip people to live healthy lives through the services provided by Camino Health Center. They equip people to live hopeful lives through the services offered by Camino Church. But how does Camino equip people to live productive lives? Throughout this blog, I will highlight the important work of Arriba, Camino’s upward social mobility program, and how it equips people to live productive lives.

Arriba staff (left to right): Nori Maldonado (Workforce Development Coordinator), Ursula Egan (Development Coordinator), Zhulanny Narvaez (Workforce Development Assistant), Cheryl Moynihan (Director)

What is Arriba?

“Arriba” literally means “upward” in English. The name is fitting for the program because their goal is to provide upward social mobility to Latinos. Before Arriba was developed and branded into the program it is today, the staff members were partnering with other organizations to host a variety of events. Over time, Camino realized there was a thirst for education and a longing for career opportunities within the Latino community.

“We realized the need for this program and the services we offer because we were in constant contact with Latino community members, thanks to the trust Camino had built within the community over the past 20 years. We would listen to them and figure out how to tailor our programs to fit their needs. As the program grew, many Latinos felt comfortable asking questions, asking for help, and communicating their needs.” — Cheryl Moynihan, Director of Arriba

What services do they offer?

Arriba works closely with Camino Research Institute (CRI), Camino’s research arm, to determine how Camino can further uplift the Latino community. Based on CRI’s data and direct feedback from Arriba participants, the program developed a variety of services that are constantly changing. Primarily, Arriba offers educational services, job placement opportunities, and entrepreneurial support.

Educational Services:

Arriba partners with different organizations to help educate Latino community members in the Charlotte area. Their partnership with Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) allows Arriba to offer free English as Second Language (ESL) classes. These classes teach participants how to understand the English language by focusing on developing members’ written and oral skills. They also emphasize the importance of education and how it can lead to a better life. They teach Latino parents the importance of keeping their children in school and how to make higher education a possibility.

“If we can educate the students on how important it is to have an education and get the parents to understand how important it is, we can positively impact their lives forever.” — Moynihan.

Arriba also helps educate their members on financial topics, including paying taxes, applying for loans, buying houses, and much more. They offer a community health worker program as well, which teaches individuals how to help patients and their families navigate/access community services and adopt healthy behaviors. This year, Arriba had a total of 300 people participate in their various educational seminars/services. Almost 80 individuals enrolled in and completed Arriba’s ESL classes, and 60 community health workers graduated from their community health worker program.

Job Placement:

Arriba not only educates their members but also helps them find job opportunities. Their staff members offer one-on-one resume-building sessions with their members. This allows their participants to separate themselves from other job seekers applying for the same job. As for job placement, Arriba has partnered with 81 companies to help Latinos find employment. This year, Arriba has helped 580 people build better resumes and find job opportunities.

“Everything changes when you have a better opportunity and a better job… To live a better life–that is the immigrant dream.” — Nori Maldonado, Workforce Development Coordinator.

Entrepreneurial Support:

According to CRI’s Latino Community Strengths and Needs Assessment, entrepreneurship is the top strength reported by Latinos living in Mecklenburg County. With this information, Arriba partnered with the Ecuadorian American Chamber of Commerce (EACC) to host an entrepreneur program. This program, comprised of four modules, teaches Latino entrepreneurs about marketing, branding, leadership, and the legal aspect of running a business in the U.S. This program helps individuals build their businesses and helps current business owners grow their businesses. This year, 34 entrepreneurs completed the program. Of the 34 Latino entrepreneurs who finished, 22 participated in Arriba’s first Entrepreneurial Fair, where they sold their products to the community. They also presented their products/business ideas to a team of judges, similar to the popular television show Shark Tank. The winner of this event received six months of support from the EACC to help grow this individual’s business. Currently, Arriba has 20 people on the waiting list for their next entrepreneur program.

“Many immigrants grew up poor in their home countries. They don’t want to come here and continue to be poor–they want a better life.” — Maldonado

What’s next for the program?

As 2022 comes to an end, Arriba is already looking forward to 2023. They are planning to conduct their second entrepreneur program, which dives deeper into the entrepreneurial program modules, a new digital literacy course, and 12 other programs to continue to uplift the Latino community. Before we get to the conclusion of this blog, Maldonado would like to leave a few words of encouragement to those who have read this far:

I am Latina. I came to this country for the same reason many others have come–for success, to help my family, to find new opportunities, to grow my career, and to chase my dreams. I will work with all of you to make your dreams a reality because it is possible. All we need to do is believe in ourselves.

This blog is only a glimpse at the amazing services Arriba offers to the community. The best part about this program is that their services are multicultural and free. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about Arriba’s services, or if you would like to register for their courses/programs, contact them at 704.968.4419 or email Maldonado at nori@camino.org.

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