Facilitated community dialogues are intended to bring together immigrants and non-immigrants around topics of mutual interest and concern. The first of these dialogues, conducted at the downtown central Library in April and May, was a city-wide approach on the topic of adult learning. While nearly 70 people participated in the month-long dialogue process, participants were not reflective of the City’s residents and richly diverse neighborhoods.
Consequently, it was agreed to pilot a more targeted grassroots approach by working with residents of the Asylum Hill neighborhood. Through the support of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association NRZ (AHNA). Established in 1990, AHNA's core mission of addressing key issues and concerns in the neighborhood, as well as involving more immigarnts is well aligned with our project’s goal - making Asylum Hill a more welcoming community for new-arrival immigrants and long-term residents alike.
Asylum Hill neighborhood map / AHNA Brochure (English / Spanish)
Neighborhood Approach Community Dialogue Outline
STEP 1: INITIAL WELCOMING EVENT PLANNING
In July 2012, members of Harford Public Library met with members of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Assocation, the South Marshall Interfaith Coalition and other community stakeholders to discuss ideas to engage Asylum Hill residents in active exchange on pressing neighborhood issues.
The idea of a fall welcoming event was mutually agreed upon by planning members and coordination was soon underway. The event’s primary purpose was that of gathering community leaders, neighborhood representatives and families together to share food, their stories and ideas through facilitated discussion.
Welcoming Event Goals:
Create a safe space for introductions and relationship building
Learn about other cultures, communities and institutions
Welcome immigrants, new arrivals and families
Serve as a step towards holding community conversations/dialogues
STEP 2: WELCOMING EVENT
The Welcoming Event was held on November 10, 2012. In co-sponsorship with Hartford Public Library, the event’s main purpose was that of encouraging relationship building and community conversations among Asylum Hill residents who ranged from long term, native-born city dwellers to new arrival immigrant families from around the globe.
Over 80 adults and children attended the event, hailing from countries such as Burma, Nepal, Bhutan, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and the Congo joined members of the receiving community for facilitated discussion and a lunchtime feast.
Event Postcard (English / Spanish) / Event Survey
STEP 3: NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR EVENT PLANNING
After the November 2012 Welcoming Event, both the Asylum Hill Planning committee and a newly formed Asylum Hill Steering committee met regularly to discuss the organization of the community conversation event to be held in late spring 2013.
Initially the approach was to engage event attendees in a rather formal formal dialogue on issues that had been identified as the most pressing in the neighborhood during the November event. Emphasis was placed on encouraging relationship building among neighbors/residents through a less formal dialogue process.
STEP 4: NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR EVENT
The Neighbor to Neighbor event was held on May 4, 2013 at Immanuel Church Reception Hall in Hartford. Over 75 neighborhood residents participated in activities that promoted interactive dialogue and personal skill identification. Group members referred to a list of topics identified at the November event and matched participants' skills with those topics so as to come up with ideas on how neighborhood residents' talent and resources could be mobilized to improve the neighborhood. Guests also enjoyed multicultural entertainment including Nepalese dance and song. Learn more about Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association.
Event Flyer / Facilitator Recruiting Flyer / Participants Handout
Facilitator Guide / Facilitator Training Agenda / Welcome Event Program
STEP 5: ACTION
The outcome of the May event was the establishment of two committees: the Asylum Hill Welcoming Committee. The main goal of this committee is to help immigrant and non-immigrant neighbors within this community establish relationships built on trust and understanding. This committee of more than 20 meets the third Thursday of each month and has more than 50% immigrant membership. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcoming Committee Flyer
In addition, we have formed an AHNA Immigrant Leaders Group with 11 members, 10 of whom reside in the Asylum Hill neighborhood. Currently the group has been discussing ideas for an immigrant community center as well as advocacy referral group to address social and medical services access for neighborhood residents. This group meets first monthly.
This summer, the Welcoming Committee sponsored numerous programs and activities for the Asylum Hill community which increased immigrant civic engagement and led to the creation of community ESL classes (with a focus on citizenship and driver education) as well as programs centered around neighborhood safety and arts enrichment.
Community ESL Classes for Karen and Nepalese Speakers
Our strong relationships with the immigrant community in Asylum Hill have lent itself to an abundance of support with community activities this summer.In June and July, two immigrants volunteered to teach basic driver’s license preparation classes for Karen and Nepali speakers. These classes were intended to help students prepare for the written driver’s class test and practice Basic English skills. There was an overwhelming interest in these classes which led to the creation of basic ESL classes for Karen speakers during the months of July and August. The library has continued classes with the Karen community, but is now focusing on citizenship education.
Community Art and Photography Classes
Asylum Hill residents offered drawing and photography several workshops this summer to neighborhood youth. Both workshops were well attended with more than 50 children attending. Art/Photography Workshop Flyer
Neighborhood Family Movie Series
A neighborhood family movie series was offfered this summer at the Hartbeat Ensemble Theater. Neighborhood residents were invited to come one Sunday a month to watch a family-oriented film. The biggest success was our July film, “Up”, which brought in more than 55 neighborhood residents, predominantly immigrants. Children left with colorful balloons and a fun time was had by all. More than 100 immigrants attended the three movie events. Movie Flyer in Karen and English
Karen Traditional Wrist Tying Ceremonies
The summer closed with two wonderful events in the Asylum Hill neighborhood- traditional Karen Wrist Tying ceremonies at Mark Twain Library branch and St. Joseph’s Cathedral on Farmington Avenue. As there is a large population of Karen living here, it was wonderful to see the community celebrate together. Hundreds of Karen gathered at both locations to participate in this annual rite and enjoy in traditional dance and song. Event Flyer (in Karen)