Reed & Whitehouse Deliver $650,000 in Federal Funds to Help Higher Ground International Reach New Heights
PROVIDENCE, RI – For years, people from West African cultures who need assistance in Rhode Island have turned to Higher Ground International (HGI) for help getting culturally competent support and care. The nonprofit organization, helmed by Cranston’s Henrietta White-Holder — who came to Rhode Island from Liberia in l980 at the age of 17 to join an older sister — serves as a hub for Rhode Island’s Liberian community and the African diaspora. Since 2008, HGI has been providing life-changing services and tools to Liberians and other West African immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized communities.
Now, Higher Ground is getting a financial boost thanks to U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Whitehouse, who delivered $650,000 in federal earmarks today to help Higher Ground International expand its reach through new facilities and services.
Senators Reed and Whitehouse secured a $300,000 federal earmark in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations law to support HGI’s Sweetie Care African Elders Enrichment Day Program.
They also secured a $350,000 federal earmark in the fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations law to support the acquisition of a new 10,000 square foot facility in the heart of the West End of Providence, which will serve as a new headquarters for HGI. From this new location, the organization will be able to sustain its expanded operations and assist more members of the community throughout Rhode Island. The new facility will house the Sweetie Care program in addition to women’s workforce programming, case management services, culturally appropriate non-perishable food distribution, health and wellness services, and basic literacy and ESOL classes.
Today, Reed and Whitehouse joined with Governor Dan McKee and Higher Ground International for a special celebration at the new Rukiya Center building on Ninigret Avenue in Providence.
“Henrietta planted the seed for Higher Ground International in 2008, with only $1,000. Since that time Higher Ground has grown, and blossomed, and continues to welcome a wider circle of people in need here in Rhode Island while also doing humanitarian work in West Africa,” noted Senator Reed. “With this $650,000 in new federal funding, Higher Ground will reach new heights, help more people achieve their goals, and strengthen our community. This organization builds trust and fosters community by providing culturally appropriate necessities like food and clothing, educational services like ESL and financial literacy courses, and more. Ultimately, they provide the tools and services to help people build a better life and ensure our elders live with dignity, respect, and security.”
“I am pleased to secure $650,000 to further the mission of Higher Ground International,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This federal funding will support the build-out of Higher Ground’s new location and the expansion of services to seniors in Rhode Island’s West African immigrant and refugee community.”
“Since its founding in 2008, Higher Ground International – led by its founder and CEO Henrietta White-Holder – has been a vital resource providing needed services to the vulnerable communities here in Rhode Island,” Governor Dan McKee said. “Henrietta is the true definition of a humanitarian and community leader. This new facility, delivered by the federal funds secured by Senator Reed and Senator Whitehouse, will offer a diverse group of elderly Rhode Islanders and their families with the very best social, cultural, and transformative services.”
“We are so grateful to Senators Reed and Whitehouse for their support and efforts in securing these funds for our new intergenerational Sweetie Care Senior and Community Center,” said Executive Director Henrietta White-Holder. “Higher Ground’s headquarters is called the Rukiya Center, which in Swahili means ‘she rises high.’ We envision this new building being a space where not only our African elders can come to receive support but where all community members can come to access what they need to rise high on higher ground. Thanks to these funds, we can continue to restore dignity, empower lives, and give peace.”
During the past six years, the Rukiya Center at HGI has operated from a small space within the complex of the Urban League’s facility in South Providence.
Despite their modest 1,100 square foot space, HGI served 75 West African refugee elders and families in their Sweetie Care Day Program from 2016-2019. A unique elder care model, the Sweetie Care program provides holistic and culturally relevant social integration and case management support to African immigrants and refugee elders in Providence.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Higher Ground expanded their services to provide on-site food distribution and services for over 300 elders and 50,000 individuals and families