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Digging deep for innovative solutions

As hospitals in rural Mississippi continue to cut maternal and neonatal services, residents are strapped to find options in an emergency or for time-sensitive needs such as going into labor. NPR recently featured WKKF grantee University of Mississippi Medical Center’s STORK program, which launched last year to prepare paramedics and health care providers for rising gaps in care.

The population of Detroit is almost 80% Black, but the number of Black middle-class households in the city dropped 17.6% from 2010 to 2021. WKKF grantees Detroit Future City (DFC), Detroit Regional Partnership and New Economy Initiative, along with other public and private partners, are working to remove barriers that prevent Black Detroiters from moving into the middle class. DFC partnered with Brookings Metro, with support from WKKF, to produce a new report,  Growth Occupations: Opportunities for More Equitable Participation in Detroit’s Growing Economy, to identify opportunities for Black Detroiters to access well-paying jobs.

WKKF grantee Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS) has developed an innovative solution to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis facing public school districts across the country. The city of Battle Creek, Michigan, and BCPS launched a partnership in 2018 to help teachers cover housing costs, with funding from WKKF. The program offers down payment assistance of up to $20,000 and rental assistance of up to $4,500. More than 50 teachers have used the program so far.

New England Public Media reported on how a small college in Chicopee, Massachusetts, is working to improve the quality of nursing care across Haiti. The nursing school at Elms College is providing free courses for nurse educators in Haiti through a WKKF grant, in partnership with the Episcopal University of Haiti. Elms College President Harry Dumay, who is from Haiti, helped start the program more than three years ago to meet a critical need for improved outcomes in his home country, including in maternal and child health.

More than 46 million people in the U.S. live with water insecurity, having either no running water or water that may be unsafe to drink. According to water accessibility nonprofit and WKKF grantee DigDeep, there are 2.2 million people in the U.S. without running water inside their homes—no sinks, bathtubs or toilets. DigDeep calls “the water gap” a crisis with an economic impact in the billions each year. By closing the water and wastewater access gap, George McGraw, founder of Dig Deep, says the U.S. can generate more than $200 billion in economic value in the next 50 years. “We can have such a massive impact on inequality and injustice and racial divide,” he says. “Water is where it all starts.”

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