Meet the 2019 Social Impact Grant winners who are helping better the lives of Charlotteans

Meet the 2019 Social Impact Grant winners who are helping better the lives of Charlotteans
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This content was created in partnership with Red Ventures


Earlier this year, Red Ventures and Charlotte Agenda combined forces to offer a $1,000 Social Impact Grant to someone working to better the lives of Charlotteans.

We had tons of great entries and, in the end, we found not one but three impressive people who are doing amazing work to improve our city and the lives of the people in it. Red Ventures generously decided to fund the additional two winners.

That’s what we love about Red Ventures. They’re more than just a major digital marketing company. They’re deeply invested in our community. They are the driving force behind several nonprofits, including RoadtoHireLifeSports, and Golden Door Scholars

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Last week, we got together with the three Social Impact grant winners, along with Red Ventures’ own Social Impact team.

The group got to have an honest, intimate discussion about the challenges and rewards of their respective missions. It was impossible not to leave that meeting feeling inspired.

We’d love to introduce all of our readers to the three 2019 Red Ventures x Charlotte Agenda Social Impact Grant winners.

Here are their stories, incredible work, and some ways you can get involved and support their causes.


(1) Sil Ganzo, OurBRIDGE for Kids

What is ourBRIDGE for Kids: It’s the only non-faith based, 501c3 organization after-school program for English Language Learners in the region.

“ourBRIDGE provides the time, space, and resources for children to acculturate to a new country, learn English, and develop a sense of belonging to a community that values their cultures and embraces their backgrounds and beliefs,” says Sil.

About the program: While other traditional after-school programs focus on homework help or mentoring, their program focuses on three areas: students’ English acquisition, socio-emotional well-being, and cultural awareness and appreciation.

ourBRIDGE creates their own in-house curriculum. It’s hands-on and based on experiential learning. While much of the curriculum focuses on English-learning, they also incorporate STEAM, cooking, gardening and coding clubs, daily physical activity, and homework help. Sil even said they’re planning on building a chicken coop.

The impact to Charlotte: According to Sil, our city sees an influx of as many as 600 refugee and immigrant families per year. Many of them don’t speak English and this program helps refugee and immigrant children transition into our city’s school system and overall culture.

Literacy is a huge focus and ourBRIDGE offers daily 1-on-1 literacy tutoring. Sil says that at least 85% (if not more) of the kids show major improvement year-over-year by participating in their program.

How you can get involved: You can apply to be a volunteer or an intern here. You can also give monetarily to help support their program. Here’s where you money can go:

  • $150 buys one week of supplies for STEAM activities
  • $200 provides transportation and refreshments for both parents and students to participate in a literacy night
  • $500 covers two weeks of daily individual literacy classes for 12 students
  • $1,000 can pay for a field trip for all of the students and their parents

Give here.


(2) Elizabeth Hurtado Escobar, Hay Trabajo

What is Hay Trabajo: It’s a job platform to connect businesses with Hispanic labor in Charlotte. The platform is in Spanish and Elizabeth provides translation services to employers to help bridge the gap caused by language barriers.

Behind the mission: “As a Hispanic immigrant that moved from Colombia to Charlotte nine years ago, I experienced difficulties finding job opportunities because I did not speak English at that time. I learned English on my own and I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Engineering from UNCC in 2014,” says Liz.

“I started Hay Trabajo to help Hispanic immigrants find jobs and create economic mobility opportunities for them and their families.”

The impact in Charlotte: Elizabeth says, since launching the website 7 months ago, 799 people have subscribed, 289 have applied for jobs and 15 Hispanics have already been hired. Camino Community Center and Novant Health have become two of her employer partners.

Many of the applicants Elizabeth works with desperately need jobs to help support their families. Her platform is helping connect them with the positions they are looking for and strengthening our city’s workforce.

How you can get involved: Hay Trabajo is looking for more employer partners and opportunities for blue collar works or Spanish-English bilingual applicants to connect with positions they can excel in.

If you’re an employer looking for bilingual employees, connect with Hay Trabajo here.


(3) Andrea Downs, Airing Out the “Dirty” Laundry

What is Airing Out the “Dirty” Laundry”: It’s ongoing, participatory, community art movement. Women* (cis women, women identifying, and non binary people) are invited to create pieces of visual storytelling that share and reveal stories of strength, unity, hope, and resistance of oppression, injustice, and exclusion.

These pieces are created primarily at Laundry Days (intentional spaces for women to gather, an opportunity to listen and be heard, and to foster the love and understanding that resists hate and injustice).

Behind the mission: “The personal experience of marching with my then 9-year-old daughter, Bronwyn at the first Charlotte Women’s March, my ongoing passion for social justice and doing work to create a world that is just, inclusive, and equal for all, and my 20 years of experience as a visual artist and art educator gave me the courage to conceptualize this participatory project,” says Andrea.

The impact in Charlotte: Over 300 women have created pieces that are now a part of the Airing Out the “Dirty” Laundry ongoing collection of stories (you can read some of them here).

“It’s been a catalyst for women’s voices, a call to gather, opportunity to listen and be heard, and to foster the love and understanding that resists hate and injustice, says Andrea.

How you can get involved: You can participate and tell your own story by creating a piece at a Laundry Day Workshop. And invite friends and family to join too.

Plus, pieces from past Laundry Days will be feature at the Mint Museum Uptown next Summer (2020) so make sure you check it out.

Find upcoming Laundry Day Workshops here.


Thank you to everyone who entered our 2019 Red Ventures x Charlotte Agenda Social Impact grant. We loved hearing all the cool work you’re doing to better the lives of the people in our community.

Here’s to making Charlotte a better place.


(This content was created in partnership with Red Ventures.)

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