By Courtney Gfroerer, Marketing & Community Impact Specialist
This past February, group family child care provider Solange Niyigena was awarded Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI)s Entrepreneur of the Year. “The award goes to a person who has shown a demonstrated impact on the community,” Capacity Building Specialist Luke Pancier said in a Buffalo Rising article. As part of her award, Solange received $500 from Rich Products.
Solange worked tirelessly with Child Care Resource Network staff to open her child care program. As a refugee new to the country, Solange faced many difficulties in opening her program that other child care providers often do not, including language barriers.
Having only been open since January 2016, the program started with two children. Solange now has over 12 children in her care and is looking to expand her business next year by opening another location.
Nominated by Esperance from Buffalo, Solange’s work ethic and caring for the community was highlighted. “Solange’s business of family style child care services Buffalo’s diverse immigrant community in innovative and unique ways failed to customer’s needs,” Esperance said.
“Many entrepreneurs run a successful business selling to their ethnicity, but Solange has shown community leadership and inclusiveness by running a business that serves, employs, and brings together many ethnic groups.” Michelle Wilson, an Education & Training Specialist at CCRN, was incremental in helping Solange to achieve her goal of opening a child care program. “Solange is an inspiration to work with. She is very community-minded and works to support the refugee community in Buffalo, not only with culturally sensitive child care but also as they assimilate into American society,” Michelle said. The Education & Training Specialist explained how her former student was an integral part in helping the local refugee and immigrant community. “She helps the community navigate housing, employment, and daily living issues as they become members of the Buffalo community.”
But Solange isn’t stopping there. The child care professional is currently enrolled in CCRN’s Child Development Associate (CDA) program, and is currently a candidate for this advancement in her education. “Without Child Care Resource Network, I would not be here. They helped me to take the classes to open my daycare,” Solange said. “We had Michelle as a teacher and she helped us so much. Without Michelle I wouldn’t have been able to open my daycare.”