VARDAMAN, MISS. (WCBI) – Hispanic immigrants are finding their way to Northeast Mississippi to work in farming, furniture and other industries that are benefiting from a booming economy.
But many of those immigrants face hurdles communicating with authorities and other officials because of language barriers.
The promise of jobs in furniture plants, or on sweet potato farms, attracts immigrants to Vardaman, but there is often a language barrier. Many of the immigrants are from Mexico, and even though they go through the proper channels, they don’t speak English.
That’s where Danna Johnson comes in.
Johnson emigrated from Honduras years ago, with her husband, who is from Northeast Mississippi. She works with a local ministry to help immigrants who need to communicate with their children’s teachers, fill out medical forms or other tasks such as setting up utility service or taking care of traffic tickets, or other legal matters.
“I have noticed that ,. in terms of immigrants in this area, it’s quite a new thing, and I’m telling you this, especially in church, we were not prepared for this wave of immigrants,” Johnson said.
While translating and interpreting are important, sometimes immigrants and immigrant families need help finding out what services and resources are available. Johnson tries to point them in the right direction.
“Mothers with children with disabilities, the children are receiving all services they require, from school, hospital, but it’s hard to find a support group, where women can share, day to day issues, one of the things we find useful is how to bring resources here in place, to have nights of parenting, some women’s support group,” she said.
And often, Johnson says the main need for an immigrant is someone with a willingness to listen.
Johnson says the immigrant population in Vardaman and Calhoun County has risen dramatically in recent years.