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Translators needed in Mayfield in tornado's aftermath

A scene of devastation in Mayfield.
Liam Niemeyer
A scene of devastation in Mayfield.

An official with Mayfield Independent Schools says there will be a growing need for translators in the coming weeks to continue to connect impacted families with resources following a devastating tornado.

Mayfield Independent Schools Public Information Officer Kim Martin said the district has been able to meet translation needs for this week at the local high school, serving as a resource distribution hub, with other staff going out into the community to assess the needs of students where they are.

But the district is also asking those who are bilingual to reach out to the district for future needs. Martin said having translators can help communicate information accurately to families whose primary language isn’t English, particularly for Spanish-speaking families. U.S. Census survey data shows about 15% of Mayfield residents identify as either Hispanic or Latino.

“If people would like to reach out, we'll take their names, and we will reach back out,” Martin said. “This is going to be a long term, and we're here for our kids, however long it takes to help them.”

One translator who was helping translate this weekend at the Mayfield-Graves County is Maribel Phelps, a McCracken County Schools teacher. She said there’s a need for more translators who can work several hour shifts at distribution sites. She was unable to help translate Monday because of her work in McCracken County.

“Like yesterday, for example, I worked 17 hours,” Phelps said. “We just, we need more hands on deck.”

She said having more translators at resource distribution centers can help prevent miscommunications and also help bridge cultural differences with potentially some Latino families more hesitant to ask for help.

“I think that's just what it comes down to,” Phelps said. “You have to serve the needs of all people.”

A Paducah resident has also created an online survey to gather contact information for those who are willing to translate to help serve community and government organizations. Kara Gray-Watson said she’s received about seven responses so far, as of Monday morning.

“You can't leave someone behind just because they can't understand what you're saying. They still need help,” Watson said.

Kate Howard is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

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