City Officials Work to Bridge Burmese Communication Gap

By Megan Trent

May 12, 2011 Updated May 12, 2011 at 7:20 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (indiana's NewsCenter) - What are Fort Wayne officials doing to bridge the communication gap for the city's growing Burmese population?

Since 2008, Mayor Tom Henry has regularly called together a group of community agency leaders to discuss how to address issues like transportation and education with Burmese refugees.

Community leaders took a big step forward by making it easier for refugees to communicate with physicians through video conferencing and interpreters. In addition, Citilink has produced videos that teach Burmese refugees how to use the city's public transportation system.

However, officials say translating signs and documents present another challenge. Cherise Dixie is a Community Liaison to the Mayor's office for Fort Wayne's east side. She says, "In this instance, a lot of the Burmese refugees that we have are illiterate in their own language. So, it's caused somewhat of a challenge in terms of trying to bring them up to speed or teach them English at the rate at which we have in the past with other groups."

Dixie says there aren't a lot of examples in other cities to draw from when it comes to integrating the Burmese community. The Burmese population in Indianapolis, however, is beginning to catch up to Fort Wayne's numbers. Dixie says this gives officials an opportunity to exchange ideas and successes.

She says bridging the communication gap is a challenge, but one Fort Wayne is making progressing with. While there is still work to be done, she acknowledges, it's also a challenge Fort Wayne residents and officials are ready to take on.

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