MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – Hola Lakeway helps serve the diverse immigrant community of Hamblen, Jefferson, and Grainger Counties by giving them the skills and tools they need to be empowered in a new country.
Last year Hola Lakeway served over 1,700 immigrant families. They just received a grant to help those transitioning into the local school systems but they’re needing help finding translators.
“There is a growth in the Hispanic community but also we are seeing other communities,” Hola Lakeway Executive Director Betsy Hurst said. “There are a few families from Ukraine that are coming to Morristown and we have a big community from Venezuela.”
From English language classes to making sure families have food through their food pantry, Hola Lakeway is helping those who come to East Tennessee from all over the world feel welcomed into their new home.
“A big component of Hola is “Hola on the Move,” Hurst explained. “This is when we go and visit our neighborhoods and we help, and we also help at our school systems. That’s part of the grant, part of the programs that we do.”
Through the East Tennessee Foundation’s CMS Y-12 Community Investment Fund the nonprofit is now starting a new program to help bring interpreters to school events such as one on one meetings with teachers and staff.
“It is difficult for your families to adjust, especially if they don’t speak the language so to know it and to understand the difference,” Hurst said. “For instance, if you’re meeting with your teacher it is important to know where your child is. If I don’t know that, how am I going to help?”
Hola Lakeway specifically needs those who can speak and write in Ukrainian, Arabic, and Hindi.
They also need help from those who know native indigenous languages from Guatemala, Mexico, and Micronesia.
“There is a big population in Morristown with the Guatemala community, and they speak different indigenous languages,” Hurst said. “They do speak some Spanish, but sometimes it’s not 100% so we look for interpreters so that we’re able to communicate with them.”
Through the grant, the nonprofit is able to pay qualifying translators $25 an hour for their services but Hurst said they hope that’s not the only reason people will be willing to help,
“I think the benefit is to be a part of a community. I mean this is just a small stipend that we’re doing. It is a service they will provide. That’s why we like to recognize that because it is not like a Google translate that sometimes doesn’t work, right? To speak a language is a skill and I think it is a good thing to recognize the people it’s going to be translating.”