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About thirty years ago, the founder and director of the Intergenerational Center at Temple University, Nancy Henkin, learned that an Asian elderly woman had committed suicide. A high degree of social isolation was determined to be the leading factor in this tragedy.

This news challenged the perception that immigrant communities are always tight-knit and supportive of its members, with particular honor and respect bestowed on elder members of the community. Issues stemming from transplantation, such as linguistic isolation and disrupted social roles, complicate a person's healthy integration to a new culture.

SHINE’s aims to aid in the integration of immigrants and refugees into American society in order to help bridge connections and remove the isolation these populations feel.

Project SHINE's Goals:

  • Promote intercultural and intergenerational understanding within diverse communities
  • Improve the ability of older immigrants to access healthcare, exercise their rights, and perform their responsibilities as family and
    community members
  • Increase the academic knowledge, personal growth and civic engagement of college students
  • Enhance the ability of faculty members to create stronger links between community service and academic coursework
  • Build the capacity of community colleges and universities to develop sustainable, mutually beneficial partnerships with immigrant

Since 1985, the different incarnations of SHINE have reflected our core belief. Throughout the life of Project SHINE, our programmatic work responded to different environmental factors and focused on different aspects of sustaining healthy communities of all ages and cultures. Organizations, like individuals, grow by learning throughout its life-cycle. SHINE continues to expand our core service learning program and explore new and meaningful roles that support the mutual growth of college students and older immigrants and refugees in our communities.

Since 1997, SHINE has partnered with 31 colleges and universities and over 200 ethnic, community and faith-based organizations in 16 cities across the country. Faculty have incorporated service-learning through SHINE into more than 1000 courses in a variety of disciplines. Nearly 10,000 students have provided more than 150,000 hours of service to almost 40,000 older immigrants through Project SHINE with support from Learn and Serve America. Project SHINE was also nominated Model Program by Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement.

The areas of SHINE's greatest impact, however, are less quantifiable. The SHINE experience is transformation for its participants, fostering positive growth that influences the direction of one's life.

Our latest research studied ways in which older immigrants and refugees already engage in civic activities and contribute to their communities. SHINE is currently working with three pilot project sites to expand older immigrants' social networks and create culturally relevant roles that support and sustain elders' civic engagement.

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