Rock Island is looking to expand its cultural outreach program

Rock Island, IL. (KWQC) – Rock Island wants to expand a program that helps immigrant communities understand city processes.

The city council recently extended its cultural communication contract at the meeting on January 23.

Since the 1980s, Rock Island Community Gardens have been growing all kinds of fresh produce for their neighborhood.

In the past few years, these parks across the city have grown in trust between the African immigrant community and the local government thanks to the Cultural Connection Program.

Nyongabire Prosper is entering her third year as Rock Island’s cultural liaison, having served in that role since the program’s inception.

“Any time I help someone … overcome an obstacle, it’s really kind of life-changing,” Prosper said. “It has been my dream to help bridge communities and cultural differences.”

The city has seen an influx of migrants from the African Great Lakes region.

Born in Burundi, Prosper moved to Idaho and eventually came to the Quad Cities in 2012.

He said many people like him moved to QC to be closer to family already settled here.

“[It’s] not only food, but even other industries, because this culture is too much for the city. “

Prosper speaks English, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and Swahili.

He began helping other immigrants apply for space in community gardens. Eventually, he began helping his community in other businesses they might have with the city.

According to Rock Island Community and Economic Development Director Miles Brainard, it was those conversations that sparked the liaison program, something the city now hopes to develop.

“We want to make sure we’re actually getting through because we assume people know things about us or assume people can reach us,” Brainard said. “Instead, get people where they are and speak to them literally, because they will understand.”

While the expansion is in its early stages, Rock Island will look to see how other communities are running similar programs.

Prosper said he is excited about what the future holds for immigrants in the city.

“I hope more people participate,” Prosper said. “Not just a few people, but different cultures can come together and do that. It’s going to be great.”

City officials hope to have a formal proposal on expanding the program with a timeline, funding and goals to the city council this summer.

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