Home : Project : For the Media :

Program helping make connections (Boston Herald)

By Jenny Jiang | July 16, 2003

Originally published: 7/2003

Wing Koo wants to go back to work, but he needs help.

Like many immigrants, one of the biggest obstacles between the Quincy resident and a job is language: He speaks little English.

But thanks to "Working Connections," a job program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's faith-based and community initiatives, Koo has access to a bilingual job counselor, job training and language-development classes at the Quincy Career Center.

The initiative has helped reduce bureaucratic snarls that hamper faith-based and grassroots groups from obtaining federal aid for outreach programs aimed at aiding minority populations, said Brent Orrell, director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Center for Faith-Based Initiatives.

Last year, the agency gave $ 1.3 million to the University of Massachusetts-Boston's Institute for Community Inclusion. That money was used to coordinate the job-outreach effort with other community and church groups.

"It made it easier for small organizations like us to apply for grants and that was very helpful, because I know that government grants can be very bureaucratic and we didn't have to deal with a lot of that," said Lydia Lowe, director of the Chinese Progressive Association.

Orrell said the department is working with grant recipients to ensure that the money given to faith-based groups is used to fund social services and programs that are "religiously neutral." Programs also must be available to anyone, regardless of their faith, he said.

"The initiative removes barriers and makes it possible for people to access the services that they need," he said during a meeting yesterday in Boston.

Caption: REACHING OUT: Karen Chen, program coordinator for the Chinese Progressive Association, speaks in Chinatown yesterday. Staff photo by Patrick Whittemore

(c) Boston Herald

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities