SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are an estimated 30,000 immigrants in Sioux Falls that speak at least 10 different languages between them and they need to hear about COVID-19 in their own language, said Christy Nicolaisen, the executive director of the Multi-Cultural Center in Sioux Falls.
The estimate is based on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and figures provided within the immigrant community, Nicolaisen said.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the foreign born population was 8% of the city’s population in 2018.
“Thirty-thousand, that’s a chunk of people. That’s why we are trying to get the information out,” Nicolaisen said of MCC’s efforts to inform the non-English and limited-English speaking community about COVID-19.
“We are pushing harder with (COVID-19) numbers jumping greatly…,” Nicolaisen said.
Minnehaha County has 768 of the state’s 988 cases, according to the South Dakota Department of Health, as of Tuesday afternoon.
MCC has translated information about COVID-19 into 11 different languages. The translations include in Arabic, Croatian, French and others. The translations are on the MCC website.
Flyers have also been posted at most ethnic stores.
“We’ve tried to get to all religious organizations,” Nicolaisen said. The population includes Christians, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists and more.
“We are trying to get to all of those and apartment complexes,” Nicolaisen said.
The latest project are three to four minute videos in several languages.
MCC isn’t doing it alone.
“We have a great relationship with the city and county,” Nicolaisen said. The organization has been working with each for a month or more.
The flyer information was initiated by the mayor’s office, Nicolaisen said.
Officers from the Sioux Falls Police Department have been handing out flyers at apartments and MCC is working with health care organizations in the area as well as organizations such as Lutheran Social Services, Nicolaisen said.
MCC is also connecting with children in its after-school program.
“We talk on the phone twice a week asking those kids ‘how it’s going’ and ‘how’s life at home,'” Nicolaisen said.
When MCC staff checks in with kids and families if they learn of a need such as food, the staff will find a way to deliver food. The organization works with the COVID-19 church organization.
“Some parents and grandparents don’t have transportation,” Nicolaisen said. “We are doing that little extra step to be a good neighbor.”
Nicolaisen said MCC’s work is making an impact. She sees it when kids in the after-school program return letters in the after-school packets each week. The letters often thank MCC staff and teachers and tell them how much they are missed.
Another sign is that members within the immigrant community are also volunteering to help with COVID-19 response, Nicolaisen said.
The next project for MCC is finding masks for the community. Nicolaisen it would be ideal if every Sioux Falls resident had two masks. The priority needs to be health care workers and emergency personnel but the more people who have masks, the more protected everyone will be, which can help reduce the COVID-19 spread and the burden on health care and emergency personnel.
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