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DHS News May 2012 | PDF Icon DHS News May 2012

Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council

Immigrants often find themselves facing different laws, lifestyles, language, and most significantly a new culture. The Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council was formed in 2008 to help make DHS services accessible to all residents of Allegheny County, regardless of their country of origin. 

As a way to help DHS staff members increase their understanding of different cultures, the Council provides occasional cultural competency trainings. Information is presented on providing services that are accessible and culturally sensitive, and includes communications and assessment tips and resources to help with specific service needs. These presentations feature individuals from various cultures who provide a brief overview of the language, religion, customs and beliefs of their own cultural group. Past presentations have included Latino, Muslim, West African, Bhutanese and Iraqi cultures. The Council is able to provide trainings focusing on other cultural groups such as Russian, Burmese and Chinese as well.

Communication is one of the biggest barriers for cultural understanding, and has been a main focus of the Council’s efforts. Language Line, a call center with the ability to provide immediate interpreting services for more than 170 languages, is one tool that DHS staff uses to communicate with individuals with Limited English Proficiency. To date, more than 100 DHS staff members have been trained to use Language Line. Additionally, the Council is developing more in-person interpretation services through a local ‘language bank’ that will serve the broader community, including providers and consumers of human services, healthcare, education and legal services.

These are just two of the activities of the Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council focused on specific human service needs. Others include the Refugee Career Mentoring Committee to pair highly educated and skilled refugees with peer mentors; the COMPASS AmeriCorps Project Committee (in conjunction with the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council) to deploy AmeriCorps volunteers to work with immigrant-serving agencies and provide on-going support for the social service needs of immigrants and refugees; the Children and Youth Committee to expand access to mentoring and career development opportunities; and the Immigrant Family Childcare Project, which hopes to increase the quality of childcare through home-based childcare programs.

“One of the greatest benefits of the Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council has been the strong relationships and increased communications that have developed both among members and with the broader community” said Barbara Murock, Project Manager for the Immigrant and International Initiative. “We look forward to continuing to find new ways to effectively serve immigrant and international residents of Allegheny County.”

Learn more about the Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council on our website or contact Barbara Murock at Barbara.murock@alleghenycounty.us.

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