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Diversity Forum looks at local growth, change

Posted: Monday, Jul 15th, 2013

Nearly seventy people gathered over lunch for a Diversity Forum on July 9 at the YWCA. The forum was facilitated by Kristin Wheeler of the Beadle County Risk and Resource Center.

Attendees from sectors across the Huron community discussed the growth and changes the community is experiencing. The need for cultural diversity was recognized as there is an increased presence of minority population, specifically the Karen and Hispanic.

Wheeler presented four areas of discussion concerning the community — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Groups of individuals brainstormed each topic choosing their top three priorities.

The group listed the community’s infrastructure of social service agencies, schools, churches, and medical services as positive strengths. They felt Huron was safe, peaceful and had the atmosphere of a small town. Other strengths included the economic growth, new perspectives, chance for other cultures to teach us and expand our view of the world.

Language barriers and lack of adequate and safe housing were two of the most noted weaknesses. There was concern for basic needs being met, not enough translators available, community frustration and cultural barriers.

Opportunities for the community were positive and reached a wide spectrum of ideas. Increasing awareness, education, and public interaction about cultural ideas, beliefs, and traditions was important. The group looked for increased involvement in all age groups. Discussion was heard about adding foreign language classes, increasing the presence of interpreters, and promoting advocacy programs through church ministry and service organizations. Economic growth including new businesses such as an interpreter service and increase of entrepreneur ventures were noted.

The last topic was recognizing threats to the community. Language barriers, lack of understanding other cultures, and safety and health issues raised concerns among the participants. There was concern about community prejudice, transportation, substandard housing, and discrimination.

Concluding the hour long discussion, Wheeler asked for input and suggestions on what the group would like to see happen next. Responses included facilitating meetings such as this one with minority individuals and groups to learn what their needs are from their perspective. The group felt it was important to let the public know what was talked about and the issues facing the community.

Consolidating resources, working together as a team, accepting change, sharing information, and encouraging the understanding of cultural differences were ideas volunteered by the group.

Wheeler was pleased with the event. She said, “This was a wonderful hour spent with many different people in the community brainstorming ideas to improve our community.” She plans to compile the results and provide information to the community. She will be working with the Beadle County Coalition, Community Counseling, and other groups to develop and implement programs and activities to address concerns and opportunities discussed at the forum.

For the complete article see the 07-14-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 07-14-2013 paper.

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