Saving the Lives of People One Operating Systems at a Time

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Catholic Charities of Idaho
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Organization's Mission Statement

Catholic Charities of Idaho advances the dignity of individuals, families, and communities by strengthening families, advocating justice, and engaging the community to serve the common good.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Saving the Lives of People One Operating Systems at a TimeCatholic Charities of Idaho (CCI) was founded in 2000 and is part of an extensive network of over 190 Catholic Charities organizations in the nation. CCI is privileged to draw on their experiences in providing exemplary educational and social services over the last two centuries. CCI’s service area encompasses the entire state of Idaho, approximately 84,000 square miles of predominately rangelands, agricultural communities, and wilderness. CCI is a multi-service agency serving all in need, across the life-span, without regard to religious, racial, ethnic, or other differences. Poor, underserved, and at-risk populations are our priority for service outreach. The CCI clients are from a mixture of both rural and urban communities that work in agricultural, processing plants, production, and service industry jobs. Many are lacking basic educational skills and are eager to enroll in programs that will allow them to gain access to higher paying, more stable employment to meet their needs and those of their families. Many of these families without education face barriers to living productive lives which often lead to difficulties such as high rates of high school dropout and teen pregnancy among their children and low paying jobs and poor living conditions for families in general. CCI provides services through programs in literacy development, refugee integration, financial literacy, and support for immigrant victims of domestic violence. The majority of clients that CCI serves in our literacy programs have not completed a 6th grade education. Approximately 30% have an educational level between 10th and 12th grades. In October of 2006, CCI received targeted funds through a grant to enhance our literacy offerings and increase outreach for clients to improve English fluency and create opportunities for increased financial stability for impoverished families. In addition, this past year CCI was the recipient of a large donation of approximately 30 computers from SUPERVALU, Inc. With the support of Microsoft technologies, CCI was able to purchase operating systems at a much reduced cost in order to actually use the computers for our six computer labs across the state. This provided us with the possibility to implement our Plazas Comunitarias, a partnership program that fulfills a need for basic educational offerings in Spanish, so that people can have an opportunity to understand fundamental concepts of grammar, mathematics, and science in order to be successful in studying English and in obtaining a General Equivalency Degree (GED) and begin learning English. The operating systems were a tremendous asset in expanding our literacy programs statewide. In addition, CCI’s Individual Development Account (IDA) savings program provides individuals with the opportunity to save money through a matching grant to be able to start a new business, enroll in educational or employment programs, or purchase a home. A large incentive for this program comes from a partnership with United Way. United Way donates two dollars for every dollar saved towards the purchase of a home, education tuition, or business start-up, up to $6,000. CCI’s financial literacy classes educate individuals on savings and checking accounts, debit and credit cards, and how to create and maintain a household budget. The computer labs are used as an essential resource for clients to fill out applications, enroll in programs, and develop budgets. Most clients have not been exposed to this type of information, and the impact of these classes often means the difference between paying rent and becoming homeless. Last year 12 families were served in the savings program. As a result of the donated computers and Microsoft Technology software, this program has grown to an additional 81 families who are currently enrolled. Financial literacy classes, budgeting programs, and case management services all benefit from our computer class. With the state of our economy, education in financial literacy is increasingly important now more than ever. In 2008, CCI recognized an increased need among refugees for cultural adaption to American culture, technological skill building and English language enhancement. This program uses the computer labs to instruct on software that develops language skills and promotes financial security while discussing common cultural misunderstandings and building relationships with fellow refugees facing similar situations. The current population being served is primarily from the war torn country of Burundi, home of both the Tutsi and Hutu people. This set of individuals has experienced terrible horrors and trauma in their native countries. CCI believes that by providing some stability in the form of long-term services, these families will achieve the “American Dream” to live where the pursuit of happiness is not impeded by fear to walk outside your own front door. The Domestic Violence Immigration Program (DVIP) is guided by the principles of the national Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and specializes in supporting women and children due to issues of domestic violence or human trafficking. Stability of the community and familial unit is a primary concern, and ensuring that the basic needs of shelter, safety, and sustenance are met is absolutely critical for these women. CCI provides support in completion of elementary education and fundamental English language skills in order to help gain viable employment that is capable of sustaining a family’s basic needs. Computer labs are used during instruction and completion of elementary and secondary educations in the client’s primary language. Literacy in primary language has been a proven method for success in secondary language acquisition, and is seen as a necessary step in securing viable employment. English Language Learning and Citizenship classes are hybrid computer instructional classes that meet students at their current level and work to instruct on basic English sufficiency. Additional services in DVIP include case management, counseling for women and their children escaping violent relationships, and human trafficking situations. The donated operating systems and software have allowed CCI to grow the citizenship program from 565 individuals served in 2007-2008 to 1,264 individuals served in 2008-09. That is an increase of nearly 127%. The resources obtained from Microsoft Technologies through TechSoup have afforded the ability to serve over 411 individuals in the last year. CCI has been able to provide open lab hours for self-study. Classes have been offered during both evening and daytime hours to accommodate the busy work schedules of students. With your support, CCI has had a real impact on issues of illiteracy and low educational achievement and has begun to address the larger issue of poverty for immigrant families. Access to living wage jobs begins with education.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact
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