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Communities First: Moving from Conversation to Collaboration & Action

By Sil Ganzó, Founder & Executive Director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS

In the summer of 2022, I had the privilege of witnessing impactful conversations unfold as people were given the opportunity to openly express their feelings and thoughts. Neighbors from five different countries, speaking five distinct languages, gathered in a room to discuss the needs of their communities within the Albemarle Road/Central Avenue area. They shared observations from their neighborhoods, recounted family experiences, and discussed challenges in accessing healthcare, transportation, and understanding the school system. As they shared a meal, they nodded in agreement, unknowingly building community and impacting hundreds of lives through their conversation.

A year has passed since United Way of Greater Charlotte and 13 nonprofit organizations identified as key impact leaders across the city, collaboratively expanded the United Neighborhoods program. The leaders of these 13 organizations, referred to as Community Quarterbacks, each have the responsibility of creating a support network for families that enhances accessibility and, in our case, promotes cultural responsiveness for families seeking help. The most groundbreaking aspect of the United Neighborhood grant is that residents in each geography decide where the available funding should be invested—an unprecedented approach. 

Nearly a decade ago, I founded ourBRIDGE for KIDS, an organization specifically focused on assisting newly arrived families from around the world. Over the past year, we have forged connections with numerous organizations doing commendable work. Collaboratively identifying service gaps and mutually supporting each other has been the highlight of the year for our organization. Through my involvement in the nonprofit sector, I’ve become deeply passionate about sharing resources for the greater benefit of the people we serve.

At the core of our specific collaboration with United Way as the Community Quarterback in the Albemarle Road/Central Avenue geography is a commitment to supporting and uplifting refugee and immigrant families, creating a network of culturally-responsive support, and paving the way to a brighter future in the United States.

As the Executive Director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS working with refugee and immigrant families, I am proud to be part of this groundbreaking initiative that prioritizes trust, responsiveness, and intentionality in delivering crucial services and resources.

Due to our Community Quarterback work, I was invited to join the Board of United Way of Greater Charlotte in 2022. I am honored and humbled by this opportunity to contribute meaningfully to our community’s well-being, providing valuable insights into the diverse needs and strengths of Charlotte’s newcomer community. I am privileged to contribute to the strategic decision-making that shapes community initiatives, including those supporting refugees and immigrants.

Through my personal experience as an immigrant and ten years of direct work with families through ourBRIDGE, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of community-centered initiatives. I am excited about the continued opportunities we have in our city to foster positive change and build a more inclusive and vibrant community for all.

Learn more about the United Neighborhoods initiative.

Sil Ganzo is the Founder & Executive Director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS. Sil moved to Charlotte, NC in 2003 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, by herself. Sil became one of the most sought-after voices for diversity and justice, being widely recognized for her fearless advocacy for the rights and well-being of immigrants and refugees. One of the honors of her life was being Congresswoman Alma Adams’ guest at the State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C. in 2016. She was named Charlottean of the Year in 2014/2018 and was presented with the Global Leader Award by the Mayor’s International Community and the Dr. Nish Jamgotch Jr. Humanitarian Award in 2020, among countless other awards and recognitions.