OMAHA, Neb. – Heartland Family Service (HFS) is pleased to announce it was recently awarded a $40,000 one-year grant from United Way of the Midlands. Thanks to the generosity of United Way’s Community Investment Grant, individuals and families in the HFS Ready in 5 program will provide parents and caregivers who are international refugees to prepare their children for success in American kindergarten.

Ready in 5 provides weekly early childhood education programs for groups of families and their children, as well as early intervention programs that may be needed prior to entering kindergarten. With the help of this grant, the Ready in 5 program will continue to help refugee families and their children navigate and successfully enter the American school system for the first time. In 2019, 368 clients participated in this program. 90% of children demonstrated an improvement in the academic skills needed for kindergarten, and 88% demonstrated improvement in the social skills needed for kindergarten.

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Omaha, its societal effects did not spare Ta Blu’s community, and she found herself struggling once again after living in a refugee camp in Thailand for nearly a decade. When all public gatherings shut down, she became worried that her oldest child would not be ready for kindergarten in the fall. With the help of HFS’ Ready in 5 Early Childhood Specialists, she began receiving weekly lesson packets, which included instructions in Ta Blu’s native language of Karen, to help her son prepare for kindergarten. She and her son regularly follow the activity schedules they receive and enjoy the many art projects and cognitive developmental activities in the lesson plans. Ta Blu now feels secure in her son’s readiness to attend school in the fall thanks to the help of the Ready in 5 program.

About United Way of the Midlands

United Way of the Midlands (UWM) has served the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area for more than 95 years. Guided by best practices and community input, it approaches poverty in a specific way – a “united” way. With the support of volunteers, community partners, and donors, UWM invests donor dollars efficiently and effectively in our local community. These dollars fund basic needs, education, and financial stability programs at local nonprofits, creating a circle of support for people in need. Please visit unitedwaymidlands.org for more information.

About Heartland Family Service

Since 1875, Heartland Family Service has responded to the needs of our area’s most vulnerable children and families. In 2019, our agency connected with over 60,000 individuals through direct services, education, and outreach. Our programs serve individuals of all ages — from infants in our Family Works program to seniors in our Generations Community Center. We operate from over 15 locations in east central Nebraska and southwest Iowa. We provide critical human services to the individuals and families who ultimately shape the future of our community through the following program areas: Child & Family Well-Being, Counseling & Prevention, and Housing, Safety, & Financial Stability.