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Rock Island Hires Cultural Liaison

Niyongabire Prosper
Black Hawk College
Niyongabire Prosper

Rock Island has hired someone to help it work with refugees and immigrants who've recently settled in the city. Monday night, the city council approved a contract with a "cultural liaison."

Director of Community and Economic Development, Miles Brainard, says at first city staff hired Niyongabire Prosper to act as a translator. But then figured out they also needed someone to help them understand cultural differences.

"It wasn't enough that we just had something taken from Kirundi and put into English or from English into Kirundi - we needed to know the cultural backgrounds of the people who were speaking that language, and how they saw certain issues or questions based on their cultural background."

He call Prosper a "trusted intermediary," who helps both groups understand each other.

One example is housing, and the expectations of the new city residents.

"We have had folks that we have found living in rented garages here in Rock Island, very tragically. But they had previously spent ten years living in a tent in a refugee settlement in some other country."

The contract with Prosper runs for six months, and Brainard hopes Rock Island can find more cultural liaisons like him - recently refugees from Afghanistan have started settling in the city.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.