Earlier this month I had the opportunity to meet with Project FINE in Winona. They are a nonprofit organization that helps newcomers integrate into the community. They provide foreign language interpreters and translators as well as opportunities for education, information, referral, and empowerment for immigrants and refugees. With funding through MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities), they have also started with broadband adoption and computer literacy programs.
They have received donated computers and money from community partners. They have computer science majors who are tutoring FINE clients. Currently they offer training in the classes, but they have plans to expand training to people’s homes. The response has been terrific; people come early to the classes and want more. One attendee offered a nice testament to FINE…
“I am thankful for the class. I have nothing but positive things to say about Project FINE. I was able to get my Drivers License and employment through them. I’m not sure where to get the services if there is no Project FINE. I am so thankful to them.” – Cha Lee
Winona has become a hub for New Americans. Fatima Said, Project Fine manager, is Bosnian. There are many clients from the Hispanic and Hmong communities. Folks from the Hispanic and Hmong communities take classes either separately in their native language or together in an English-language class. While Project Fine works extensively with these groups, the computer/internet classes have been the first ones with great interaction between the two communities.
So as if often the case the curriculum and primary goals have been based on Digital Inclusion – but the results have expanded beyond technology. There was even a story of a Hmong family who gave an old washer/dryer to a Hispanic family as a result of interaction at the class.
It’s just one of the stories of success that we’re starting to see with the MIRC projects.