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MultiCultural Outreach Program receives Forward Community Investment’s Game Changer grant for February

February 16, 2018

Southwest Wisconsin's immigrant population has risen sharply in the last decade as dairy farms, cheese factories and small manufacturing plants have turned to immigrant workers to meet their unmet employee needs. These new neighbors work hard and provide cultural diversity to the rural communities of Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Richland counties. At the same time, these immigrants, like their neighbors, need help accessing basic social and legal services.

This is where the MultiCultural Outreach Program (MCOP) steps in as an innovative link between families, local schools, government agencies, farmers, employers, landlords, medical providers, churches and other community groups.

In 2017, MCOP, an initiative of the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program based out of Dodgeville, led community immigration forums that addressed the new federal and state guidelines relating to immigration and asylum seekers. These forums were designed to share importantinformation, dispel rumors and offer support. At the same time, MCOP reached out to local law enforcement agencies and offered officers cross-cultural education opportunities that provided them with a better understanding of their immigrant neighbors’ culture.

Shirley Barnes, chairperson for the MCOP explains, “A basic lack of understanding of cultural differences is responsible for personal tensions and clashes. MCOP’s intention is to address and decrease these cultural and racial tensions in this small corner of rural Wisconsin.”  

One of the MCOP initiatives supported by the Game Changer grant is the creation of an unofficial ID card which immigrants can carry to demonstrate their ties to the community. Currently, these individuals do not have the right to obtain a state-issued ID or driver’s license. This one piece of identification is hoped to prevent those immigrants stopped by the police from being arrested and possible deportation.

“With the funding from this grant, we believe we will have far-reaching effects in breaking down barriers and enhancing trust between our immigrant neighbors and their families who have lived here for generations and local law enforcement,” states Luz Nereida Bukard, bilingual consultant for MCOP.

Congratulations to the MultiCultural Outreach Program and keep up the magnificent work! We are excited to be a small part of such a very important effort!

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