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Local Officials Release Results Of Evaluation Of Local Services For Immigrants And Refugees

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Last year, Columbus City Council commissioned Ohio State University's College of Social Work to evaluate the human services available in central Ohio for immigrant and refugee populations. 

Mike Foley has the results.
The assessment includes data from 94 human service organizations, 48 focus group participants representing 19 different countries, and comprehensive interviews with human service professionals. OSU associate professor Sharvari Karandikar worked with three other researchers on the New Americans Project. They found strong consensus that Columbus is a welcoming city, but there’s still limited access to some services.

“Specifically mental health and legal services,” Karandikar said. “They said there are gaps in these services due to geographic locations. So for example, the population is located in a certain area and has needs, but the organizations that have these services are far. They cannot commute, so there is a gap. Organizations talked about having capacity challenges to provide culturally responsive services. They see that problems exist, but we just don’t have the people to respond.”

One of those capacity challenges involves language translation and cultural interpretation. Sudarshan Pyakurel is the executive director of the Bhutanese Community of Central Ohio. He explained the distinction with a story about an elderly Nepali woman in Columbus heading to surgery.

“Someone from a video conference was trying to do the interpretation,” Pyakurel recalled. “She was talking to the person in the video, who was doing a good job. But he translated surgery in pure Nepali. Surgery in standard Nepali is salya kriya. She only heard the word kriya, which means funeral rights. She was shocked. They restarted the conversation and knew what happened. So that’s why it’s cultural translation is important because we may speak the same language but there may be dialectic difference, cultural difference in understanding, we may word it differently and that can make a huge difference.”

Other emerging issues in need of attention highlighted in the report include opioid and related substance abuse, aging and late life migration, human trafficking, and violence against women. Columbus City Council member Emmanuel Remy will convene additional small group forums on the findings and announce more next steps in the near future.

“As you can hear, we have a lot of things to tackle and accomplish,” Remy said. “There’s a lot of discussion ahead of us, and I look forward to discussing the opportunities that exist to make Columbus an even greater place for our New American population.  We want everyone to have equal access to the opportunities that people that have lived here all their lives may have. We need to work collaboratively to bridge those gaps.”

The report identified 33 different nationalities being served in central Ohio, but researchers say there are likely more than that.  The assessment also found that the human service environment suffers from pressure for more competition than cooperation, adding that smaller grassroots ethnic organizations often find themselves having to compete for incentives and resources instead of working together. 
 

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. He earned Broadcasting and Journalism degrees from the University of Florida.
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