In 2013, the Denver Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs (DOIRA) started the Immigrant Integration Mini-Grants with the simple intention of bringing diverse communities together. That year we put out the call to the community to come forward with their most creative ideas for community bridging, learning, sharing and understanding. Denver organizations, neighborhood groups and passionate individuals responded to the call in overwhelming ways and produced some of the most impactful events and activities we had ever seen bringing together newcomers and receiving community. Since 2013, we have grown in size and scope but remain dedicated to funding projects that are community crafted and implemented.
Funding is made available for small, community-driven projects designed to:
• bridge immigrant and receiving communities
• create stronger and more connected neighborhoods
• address community needs
• foster community
The maximum grant amount is $1,000 and is matched with in-kind support, volunteer hours or other grants for the specified project.
2019 Immigrant Integration Mini-Grant recipients are listed below and a summary of the projects can be found here.
African Community Center – International City Community Dinners (March 19, May 21, August 20)
The International City community dinners are evening-long events to bring together refugee families, refugee youth, US-born volunteers, and ACC staff. Youth help organize, plan, prepare, coordinate, and host the dinners. Participants are invited to bring a side dish to share, the program provides the main course, and drinks. This event provides refugee youth the opportunity to learn event planning as well as the occasion to interact with the community. The event gives people the chance to try foods from different cultures, meet people from varying backgrounds, and learn about a new aspect of Denver's rich culture. Facebook.com/ECDCACCDenver
Asian Pacific Development Center – Whole Health Festival (June 8 or 9)
This project will bring immigrant and non-immigrant communities together through healthy and fun activities that promote whole health wellness. APDC defines whole health as a relationship between mental and physical health that incorporates mind, body, and spirit. The festival will immerse participants in activities that focus on whole health through different cultural traditions, such as dancing, food, and meditation. All activities will be facilitated by first or second generation immigrants who are eager to share their culture with participants and a fun, exciting atmosphere is a nice way to introduce non-immigrant communities to new cultures. Facebook.com/APDCf
Athmar Park Neighborhood Association - Movies In the Park (June 29, July 20, September 7)
Athmar Park Neighborhood Organization continues to enchant Denver residents with movies in the park for summer 2019 at Huston Lake. This is a free event that brings hundreds of neighbors together, where families bring games, cook-out, and enjoy the park together, finishing with a wonderful movie. The movies are presented in English or Spanish audio, with subtitles. Facebook.com/groups/AthmarPark
Colorado Changemakers Collective (Colectiva Creando Cambios en CO) – Community Needs Assessment (February - November)
La Colectiva Creando Cambios en CO (CCC) provides local, immigrant social entrepreneurs (12 members) the opportunity to grow their community-based social enterprises in the areas of health, wellness, care giving and information/referral to support their families and ultimately, the social, economic, health and well-being of their communities. CCC will identify the needs of the Collective as well as the needs of individual members and address the topics identified. Examples of such meeting discussions may include navigating the various city permitting processes, developing effective partnerships with schools and other local organizations, and effective marketing and outreach strategies.
Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) – Cafecitos (April – November)
In coordination with parent liaisons at elementary DPS schools, COLOR convenes parent groups whose children attend these schools. The cafecito model helps brings 10-15 participants together who voluntarily engage in dialogue about issues impacting them, their families and communities. This collaboration between COLOR and the schools helps provide the space to build community with a unique segment of the parent population: Spanish-speaking, immigrant women. COLOR’s approach is rooted in trust and relationship-building with cultural and linguistic competencies that help establish connections with community while delivering valuable information to help further their parenting, life, and navigation skills, as they integrate into community life in Denver.
The Clayton neighborhood in NE Denver continues to be a diverse group of residents despite creeping gentrification. A dedicated group of volunteers organize the celebration each year in the City of Nairobi park with approximately 300 atendees. The Celebration includes food, music, and activities for adults and youth. The event brings out residents who would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and celebrates a quiet/overlooked but vibrant neighborhood.
Denver South High School is the most diverse high school in Denver Public Schools. Students represent 67 countries and 62 languages. The school collaborates with with the DPS Migrant Education Program (MEP). MEP provides services to nearly 200 families of agricultural migrant workers. The collaboration with South and MEP strives to eliminate gaps in services. Within the school building academic, health, and counseling services are provided to students, while the MEP provides additional support through home visits, mentorship, in addition to providing dental, vision, and basic needs such as clothing and food. In addition,
South and MEP will implement five community meetings that will provide information and access to community resources, as well as
guidance through informative, culturally appropriate workshops led by community stakeholders.
Eriko Tsogo – Dream Yurt (Workshop: March – May; Dragon Boat Festival: June)
The “Dream Yurt” project is designed to eradicate social barriers through the power of art and community, and in place celebrate kinship across our differences. By engaging/challenging systems of power, the project aims to transform systems of structured oppression, urbanization, globalization and displacement while celebrating diversity, promoting social activism, equal justice, and inspiring social change. The Dream Yurt project represents/
implies a conceptual, symbolic space; a domain where different cultures, communities, and dreams are housed/safeguarded under one unifying roof. The project is heavily interactive and depends on the local communities participation to help build a three hundred year old ancient Turkic-Mongolian yurt structure. Read about the artist in Westword
Extreme Community Makeover – The Go: Westwood Project (May 4 )
The Go: Westwood project started in Westwood neighborhood of Denver in 2011. In the first year of the project, only ten Westwood residents participated but through an intentional desire to engage the community over the years, things changed. In 2017, the number of volunteers increased with 350 of the 480 volunteers represented individuals, churches, companies, organizations, and schools in Westwood. This year, the day kicks off with speakers including Councilman Paul Lopez, local police, and other community leaders then volunteers will take on other community tasks including alley clean-ups, graffiti removal, and various projects.
Hope in Our City – Summer Community Events (June – August)
This project organizes community activities in Sun Valley to bring the community together to build relationships with neighbors and outside community volunteers expanding their social network and improving their sense of community. These activities include weekly Women's Conversation Groups, community meals, and community activities like a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Facebook.com/HopeInOurCity
Inside the Orchestra – Schools Bilingual Program (August – September)
This program provides Valverde students K-8 with an interactive concert experience, featuring a 16-piece professional orchestra. Valverde serves 315 students, 45% of which are English language learners. Students are seated and surrounded by musicians, as they ask questions, observe instrument demonstrations, and learn about the music in both English and Spanish. The bilingual program features Latino-influenced and composed music and introduces students to the emotional quality of different types of music. Facebook.com/InsideOrchestra
Koffi Togo Cultural Center Foundation – UNITE Through Music, Dance and Art (September)
Despite the fact that so many Denver residents have deep ties to African roots, there are relatively few opportunities in the city to explore African arts in an engaging, authentic space. What better way to unite people than with dance, one of the purest forms of human expression? This event will be a night of music, drumming and dance to bring together Denver’s community members and appreciate the quality and depth of African cultural heritage and create a positive sense of self through music and dance. Facebook.com/KoffiTogoCulturalCenter
Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains - Family Stabilization Program (April – July)
The Family Stabilization Program was started in 2012 to better serve the needs of vulnerable refugee clients, including resettlement for refugee and asylees who identify as LGBT. This program proposes strengthening the community support available to resttling LGBT refugees and immigrants by creating three opportunities for the receiving community and LGBT refugees to connect: 1) cultural orientation geared to new LGBT arrivals; 2) increased capacity of resettlement staff in this area; 3) a series of social activities to build connection between Denver residents and LGBT refugees. Facebook.com/RockyMtnRefugee
Mercy Housing Mountain Plains – Block Party (June 22 or 29)
Grace Apartments is a 53-unit affordable multifamily housing property in east Denver, housing 260 individuals. These multigenerational families are 100% refugee and immigrant populations, from Burma, Bhutan, other parts of southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan. The block party contains two components: entertainment and a communal meal. One highlight of last year’s block party was a fashion show in which community members modeled traditional clothing from their countries of origin or their favorite outfits. Each block party ends with a meal shared among friends, family, and community. Every year, the feast provided is different and reflects the diverse backgrounds of the New Freedom community. Facebook.com/MercyHousing
Museo de las Americas - 3rd Annual Lucha Libre (July 18)
Museo de las Americas presents the 4th Annual Lucha Libre event presented through the ConnectArte series, a monthly event that brings families together to engage in community activities that improve social engagement and awareness. Lucha Libre is a form of Mexican wrestling known for its colorful masks, rapid sequences of holds, as well as "high-flying" maneuvers. The event features a professional wrestling ring and up to ten local and international luchadores from Hugo’s Lucha Libre Company. The performance is highly interactive and engages audiences of all ages in an hour-long show filled with drama and humor. The event is accompanied by a small exhibition of photographs and luchador masks that highlight the cultural significance of the sport as well as the elements of fashion and performance art involved in the development of a Lucha Libre. Facebook.com/MuseoDenver
South Sudanese Community Association of Colorado (SSCAOC) – Cultural Event at Cook Park (August 10)
The SSCAOC aims to provide the Denver community with opportunities to experientially learn more about the South Sudanese culture, the history of migration to the US, the arts, food, dance, clothing, and religions of this country. This event includes two lectures, experiential art, traditional ceremony, food booths, and more.
Spark the Change – Senior Companion Program Expansion (October – November)
The Senior Companion Program engages individuals 55+ years old to realize the independence of older adults in their homes and as a team, continue to be vibrant, contributing members of our communities. In the 2018 inaugural class of the Spark the Change Colorado Senior Companion volunteers, more than half of the volunteers were immigrants with the desire to assist other older immigrants. Following the program, photos will run in a small magazine for distribution to the participants and to the larger Denver area public and a celebration event will highlight the Senior Companions and their clients.
Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning – 3rd Thursdays at the Spring Café: Celebration of Indigenous Peoples (October 17)
The Spring Institute developed 3rd Thursdays to encourage open discussions on a variety of topics. This particular event will explore the “Roots of Injustice” found in the Doctrine of Discovery, in collaboration with the Denver American Indian Commission and our interpreters who speak languages of Indigenous Peoples. We will feature a workshop by the Toward Right Relationships Project. Facebook.com/SpringInstitute
Villa Park Neighborhood Association – Food and Movie Nights (June 8, July 13, August 10)
Villa Park is a diverse and vibrant community in West Denver. In addition to long-term residents who have called Villa Park home for many years, there is a recent influx of new residents and a large number of both immigrants and refugees. The neighborhood is in need of a project that will build bridges across its diverse populations and give neighbors an opportunity to come together for a common purpose. The VPNA will host three food and movie nights to provide a venue for all residents to meet, share a meal, learn about neighborhood resources and enjoy each other’s company. Facebook.com/VillaParkNeighborhood
Youth Employment Academy - Arts Street@YEA: Journey to Unity (July 22)
Arts Street@YEA will work with a team of 20 low-income, underserved youth, ages 14-21 over a 6-week period, during the summer of 2019 to create an art installation in the Sun Valley community garden. The project, “Sun Valley United,” brings together youth and adult residents to design a public art piece that honors the multicultural aspect of the neighborhood and creates a welcoming place for both existing residents and new immigrant families. The hope of this project is that the design and creation process will give the diverse community an opportunity to connect with each other across cultural divides and build stronger relationships. And, as the community of Sun Valley is redeveloped through Denver Housing Authority, that the art piece will be saved and reinstalled in a new community area. This piece will become a permanent symbol of continuity for the residents in the changing face of their neighborhood as well as a symbol of unity that brings community awareness and promotes shared neighborhood pride. Included in the project will be a community-wide celebration of the unveiling of the piece and celebration of diversity in the Sun Valley community. Facebook.com/YouthEmploymentAcademy
Focus Points Family Resource Center – 3rd Anniversary Celebration (October)
In October 2016, Focus Points launched its first social enterprise: Comal Heritage Food Incubator. Comal is the response to a group of aspiring northeast Denver entrepreneurs (all of whom are immigrant women) that expressed a desire to transform their heritage recipes into businesses to support themselves and their families, financially. Over the past two and a half years, Comal has grown to serve both immigrants and refugees from Mexico, El Salvador, Syria, Iraq, and Ethiopia. Comal guides participants through trainings focused in the culinary arts and entrepreneurship, and provides paid, on the job experience in a “learn-while-you-earn” model. Comal’s greatest impact is turning heritage recipes into powerful sources of income for immigrant and refugee families. A secondary impact is cultural—program participants build pride in their own cultures and learn about each other’s cultures and American culture. This October, Comal will celebrate its third anniversary. Comal participants take the lead on this annual event and use it as an opportunity to showcase their cultural heritage to the broader Denver community. It is also a time for participants’ families to join in the celebration and share the pride they feel towards their entrepreneur family members. Facebook.com/ComalKitchen
GES Coalition – Block Projects (Summer)
The Block Captains Program initiated and led by neighbors of the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods, creates community-building activities and block parties. These activities allows neighbors the freedom to conduct projects they initiate which may include celebrations, tree plantings, alley cleanups, community yard sales, and more. The projects are led by Block Captains and area residents that take initiative to plan the activity and receive support of the GES Coalition with materials, resources and assistance with street closure permits and other items. Facebook.com/GESCoalition
Latina Safehouse Initiative – La Fuerza (March – November)
Through La Fuerza, Latina SafeHouse collaborates with community partners to ensure that the women we serve receive the support they need to move toward independence and self-sufficency to become integrated members in our society. La Fuerza provides safe emergency shelter through strong referral partners, advocacy for health services, employment/job training, legal assistance, and other basic needs. Given that the majority of our women are monolingual Spanish-speaking refugees and immigrants, the individual advocacy each client receives is the pillar of La Fuerza.