Increasing Language Access for New Americans
Southern Maine’s growing ethnic diversity represents an important opportunity in our aging state. Five ICL Leadership Intensive Alumni got together to consider how they could make a positive response to our region’s changing demographics.
PROBLEM: Many barriers prevent new Mainers from becoming fullly contributing participants in our communities.
SOLUTION: ICL Alumni Tae Chong, Dolly Hersom, Margie MacDonald, John Shoos and Grace Valenzuela brought together appropriate people in a constructive process. Using good information, they discovered language was a main obstacle that was preventing refugees and immigrants from accessing services. Working with a diverse group of stakeholders, they developed a new model to address the issue through various programs including high quality interpreter-training for health, education and legal settings. This led to the 2005 launch of LANA (Language Access for New Americans), a program at the United Way of Greater Portland. Thanks to LANA, over 100 new interpreters speaking dozens of different languages have been trained and are now working to support tens of thousands of Maine people who do not yet speak English well enough to effectively navigate our institutions.