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Language Access Bulletin

Many Stories One Night Shares Voices from DC’s Immigrant Communities

On mlovdc.org: Watch a video of Manuel’s speech about language access issues at his high school Download the summary preview of the State of Language Access in DC report in Amharic, Chinese, French, English, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese

Over 200 community members, government representatives, and members of the DC Language Access Coalition gathered at the historic Gala Theatre at Tivoli Square for Many Stories One Night, a celebration of DC’s immigrant communities.

These incidents are in violation of the Language Access Act of 2004, which requires government agencies to provide at minimum - interpretation services over the phone and translated documents in certain languages.

Seniors from Chinatown were the first to arrive, and they enjoyed the refreshments including horchata, egg rolls, paella and beignets. Following the reception, David Steib, a lawyer at Legal Aid, and Carol Tsoi, an Americorps VISTA who splits her time between the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center and Many Languages One Voice, ushered everyone into the theatre.

Adding their stories to the report’s findings were the evening’s two keynote speakers, Chi Vo and Manuel Juarez. Both Chi Vo and Manuel are students at DC Public Schools, and both are English Language Learners. Though they speak different languages - Vietnamese and Spanish - both encountered language barriers at school. Public schools are a covered entity under the DC Language Access Act, and each of their schools failed to provide appropriate interpretation services.

David and Carol, the evening’s emcees, next presented the preliminary findings of the State of Language Access in DC. The report summarizes interviews and surveys with over 200 community members from 28 different countries, who currently reside or work in DC. The report illuminates shared complaints from Limited English Proficient individuals, including feeling discriminated against because of one’s limited English ability; lack of bilingual staff, interpreters or interpretation services; long waits for interpreters; no signs in other languages; and no documents or important information translated into other languages.

Following the students’ speeches, filmmaker Robert Winn was on hand to screen his documentary, Communities in Translation. Centering around the 2008 Mount Pleasant fire, Communities in Translation underscored the importance of linguistically-appropriate first responders in emergency situations. Communities in Translation shared the stories of primarily Spanish-speaking residents of the apartment building that caught fire, as well as interviews with firefighters, government

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Many Languages One Voice

Winter 2011 Language Access Bulletin


Dear Friends, As we approach the end of 2011, I wanted to take a moment to first thank you for everything YOU do to build stronger, healthier, and more engaged Limited English Proficient/No English Proficient (LEP/NEP) communities in Washington, DC. I am proud to look back on 2011 as a year of tremendous growth for MLOV and for the communities we work with. While much of the year has been spent figuring out MLOV’s identity (having just completed our first year as an incorporated entity on December 1st!), we have had some great highlights --- recruiting a full Board of Directors, holding two successful community events, gaining new community partners, launching a brand new website (www.mlovdc.org) and adding four dedicated English Language Learner (ELL) high school students to our staff, to name a few!

Sapna Pandya

Executive Director, Many Languages One Voice

We at MLOV believe in the power of community to create positive change in the District. Much of that change depends on your continued partnership and generosity. You should feel proud to know that through your presence and your monetary support, you are truly helping to build a world of greater equity in DC. With your help and support, young leaders like Manuel, Lidya, Jia Le and Tewodros have completed a unique leadership training MLOV has developed to give ELL students the tools they need to change their own schools. Equipped with these tools, students authored the first-ever “ELL Student Bill of Rights.” Principals have even taken notice of our ELL youth and held meetings with them about how to improve language access in the DC Public School system. In addition to a YouTube Channel chock-full of youth-produced videos and an online blog with several bilingual entries created in 2011, next year MLOV will produce the first-ever ELL youth-produced documentary film about public education in DC! Story telling has been a focus of MLOV’s over the past year, which is why 2011 also saw the release of a preview of the “State of Language Access in DC” report. This endeavor highlights the voices of Limited- and Non-English Proficient individuals – DC residents and taxpayers such as Solomon* (*name has been changed to protect this individual’s privacy) who, despite experiencing persistent and serious seizures was turned away from the hospital. The staff he encountered refused to let him be seen by a doctor, unless he himself could bring along somebody to interpret; he didn’t know his rights were being violated through this very act. Blatant violations of language access law as well as positive experiences LEP/NEP individuals have had with seeking public benefits are included in this report, which government agencies can use as a learning tool. As we start a brand new year, full of ideas and energy towards how to increase participation of LEP/NEP communities in DC’s public programs, we need you to reaffirm your solidarity and support MLOV with your continued donations, gifts and volunteerism. We’ve made it even easier for you to make a generous donation at www.mlovdc.org. As always, we also look forward to seeing you next year at our Language Access Month celebrations in April, or anytime at our cozy office in Mt. Pleasant! Happy and safe Holidays to you all, and all the best for a bright 2012. In solidarity, Sapna

This holiday season, please consider a donation to Many Languages One Voice! Your support allows us to continue our important work: Helping to empower DC’s limited- and non-English proficient immigrant communities. With your help, we can make DC a welcoming and just city for all.

Many Languages One Voice

Winter 2011 Language Access Bulletin


We continue to experience exciting developments here at Many Languages One Voice, one of which is the addition of three members to our Board of Directors. In August, the Board welcomed Rachel Gwaltney, Kadidia Thiero, and Alice Underwood to join Myron, Nadia and myself as we continue to grow and develop MLOV. Rachel, Kadidia, and Alice collectively bring a rich combination of backgrounds, including experience with community and non-profit work, education, governance, and fundraising. We invite you to read more about them at www.mlovdc.org. For those interested, we are still looking for one additional individual to join our team. Please email me at mlovbod@gmail.com for further information. If you have not yet done so, we encourage you to visit our office to learn more about the many ways you can volunteer with us to share your voice so it may empower others.


As Thanksgiving, a time for communal celebration and thanks, has recently passed, I want to extend a personal note of gratitude on behalf of the Board to our staff, VISTAs, interns, SMART youth, volunteers, coalition and government partners, donors, and community members for your continued support and commitment. Your engagement means a great deal to this organization and to our linguistically diverse communities. Sincerely, Aryan Bocquet, Board Chair

Many Stories One Night

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officials, and emergency relief workers about language accessibility efforts in the wake of the disaster. Robert then answered questions from the audience about the film. Especially crucial throughout the night were the interpreters from Multicultural Community Services who provided simultaneous interpretation services in Amharic, Mandarin, French, Spanish, and Vietnamese, as well as Independent Interpreters who provided American Sign Language interpretation. Sapna Pandya, Executive Director of Many Languages One Voice, and Aryan Rodriguez, the Chair of MLOV’s Board of Directors, concluded the evening with thanks to the many volunteers, interns, food donors, funders, and interpreters who made the evening a success.

Working with other members of the DC Language Access Coalition, student attorneys from American University College of Law’s Immigrant Justice Clinic - along with supervising professor Jayesh Rathod - have been analyzing surveys from over 200 individuals to form the State of Language Access in DC report. (Left to right: Adrian Odya-Weiss, Jennifer Koduru, Michael Ramirez, Jayesh Rathod, Anusha Goossens.)

Many Stories One Night was co-sponsored by the DC Language Coalition, Many Languages One Voice, the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs, the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, and the DC Office of Human Rights.

Many Languages One Voice

Winter 2011 Language Access Bulletin


SMART takes on issues that affect English Language Learner youth by Tewodros Kashun, SMART Lead Youth Organizer The Student Multiethnic Action Research Team (SMART) is working to identify English Language Learner (ELL) students’ problems and come up with solutions. SMART has been working with ELL students from different ethnic backgrounds and schools to find out the issues that are holding them back from their best performance in school. SMART is working to ensure the Language Access Act of 2004 (translation and interpretation for limited and non-English proficient individuals) is being implemented in government offices. Additionally, SMART is taking on the following issues:


ELL students are being bullied and discriminated against in schools. Students are being jumped because of their ethnic backgrounds. Due to this, most of them lack interest in gaining knowledge and are afraid to show up in school. SMART has made this a main concern and is working together with students, administrators, parents and government officials to create a safe space, which allow ELL students to be at their best. We work to create a place where students can walk to their schools freely, wearing what they want, and with the eager passion to go to school.

Most ELL students’ parents are limited- or non-English proficient, so students and parents both need translation and interpretation services. But these services are not being offered in most District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). The lack of interpretation and translation is a barrier for parents to be involved in their children’s education and for students get the information they desire. SMART is working on this problem by ensuring school staff are familiar with the Language Line and other interpretation services, and by making sure that schools have translated documents. This would create a chance for the parents and students to acquire information at the time it’s needed.


Many ELL students have fulfilled coursework in the countries outside the U.S., yet are frustrated when they try to transfer class credits to DC Public Schools. Options like evening classes, summer school, electives and other enrichment opportunities should be offered to ELL students so they may better their English and feel encouraged to graduate.

Multicultural learning environments decrease racial tension and segregation among students. SMART is finding ways to increase the number of multicultural classes in DCPS, multicultural trainings for teachers, and encouraging principals to hire qualified community members from different immigrant backgrounds to help immigrant families feel more welcomed in school.




Students with a background in a language other than English must obtain assistance like all other students. All counselors should be trained to use the Language Line, but bilingual counselors who are especially knowledgeable of the issues ELL students face inside and outside of school are also needed - and this would allow other counselors more time with non-ELL students. In some DC Public Schools bilingual counselors or teachers are nowhere to be found. The ratio of students to counselors and teachers is unbelievable. ELL students crave to move on to college but this issue is an obstacle on their way.

As DC represents a combination of different cultures, DCPS also should serve culturallysensitive foods. For example, many Ethiopian and Eritrean students don’t eat meat and dairy products on Wednesday and Friday. They shouldn’t have to go against their culture to eat what is on the menu. Their culture should be respected. As the school receiving funds for each student, each student’s needs must be fulfilled. Currently, SMART is collaboratively working with school principals to resolve this issue.


SMART is the voice for many ELL students. It is working hard to make their desire to succeed a reality.

Many Languages One Voice

Meet the SMART!

Manuel, Tewodros, & Lidya SMART, the Student Multiethnic Action Research Team, has four Lead Youth Organizers, one from each school where SMART has a presence.They have recently joined the MLOV staff. Read on to learn more about them! Lidya Abune My name is Lidya Abune and I go to Calvin Coolidge Senior High School. I came to the U.S.A. in the year 2010 from Ethiopia. Amharic is my mother tongue. After I enrolled in the DC public school sytem, I witnessed many issues that affect English Language Learner (ELL) students particularly. For instance, I myself had to stay one year back in high school because the Office of Bilingual Education was only allowed to give me 15 credits, no matter how many I had from Ethopia. Last year, my school was offering credit recovery programs only for seniors, so I did not get the chance to go to night classes. The idea of joining SMART crossed my mind when I saw that not only me, but also many of my friends, were facing the same problem. By then, I realized that only when students work together could they have a big impact or pass the obstacles. As a result, this year my peers and I are collaborating to achieve quality ELL education; by that I mean having safe spaces at our schools, curriculums that also consider ELL issues, culturally sensitive lunches and credit recovery programs. After I graduate from university, I want to continue serving my community and use my knowledge to solve social problems and bring about change. I very much enjoy reading the Bible and going to church. I also like to read poetry and liter-

Winter 2011 Language Access Bulletin ary works. I am an asset to my parents and the eldest in my family. As Albert Einstein says, “your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” I believe that I can achieve all of my dreams if I work hard with full concentration and enthusiasm. Through my internship with Many Languages One Voice, I am learning the basic skills toward my goals in life. Jiale Chen My name is Jiale Chen and I went to Woodrow Wilson Senior High School. I have lived in America since 2006. English is my second language and Chinese is my mother tongue. After I enrolled in the DC public school system, I had no clue of what I was doing in school, which caused me a lot of problems. Importantly, my middle school did not have any interpreters; every time they talked to me, I needed to have a dictionary with me. I joined SMART was because the people there were so nice, and they needed more help from people, just like the students. Why? Because SMART will ask those students what problems they have, and they will fix it for them. Like the First Amendment, students have their rights too, especially ELL students.


things. If I see a problem, I will take all my time to fix it or I won’t budge. My mom used to take me to her friends’ houses to fix their cell phones, radios, TVs, hair dryers, or audio systems. This talent I have made me eager to solve bigger problems that could have a positive impact on people’s lives. This is what motivated me to study computer engineering. I remember the first time our school got old computers. Each computer had a black screen and no mouse. I could only type, open a document, create a document and save a document. At least those were the only things I knew how to do. I used to spend most of my time in the library opening and closing documents. I had a folder which contained all the countries’ names in Africa. This machine was like a best friend to me. I want to study computer engineering and create new gadgets. I want to solve every problem I possibly can. It would be my dream to make life easier with computer technology and explore every possibilities computer can do. I want to patent all the inventions that I have, which could make a difference in people’s lives.

Manuel Juarez I am from Honduras and I came to the U.S. in 2008. I go to Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School. I think the most important issue faced by ELL students is discrimination. I have been discriminated against and I know other students who have been discriminated against. When I grow up, Rainer & Jiale Tewodros Kasahun I want to be a doctor. Ranier & Jiale I was born in Addis Becoming a doctor is Ababa, the capital city what I always wanted of Ethiopia, in 1992. I to be, because there moved to DC two years are many people who ago. I am currently going need doctors and don’t to Cardozo Senior High have enough money to School, where I am a seafford them. nior. Next year, I plan on Check out the SMART During my free on YouTube attending a four-year time, I like to play soccollege to study computer engineering. cer, use the computer, and chill. I am part I live with my parents and my brother and of SMART because I want to be a leader, sister, who go to the same high school make changes at my school, and mostly with me. I am the second oldest child. My because I want to help my community. older brother is currently attending Maha- I am also part of SMART because it has rishi University of Management to obtain helped me overcome my nervousness and his Master’s degree in computer science. now I am more confident when talking to Since he is not with us, I am the oldest people about the organization. I am more in the house, which mean I have to set a comfortable in public speaking. Through good example for my younger siblings. SMART, I want to get enough English as a Growing up in Addis Ababa, I was Second Language counselors and teachers one of those kids who was good at fixing at my school.

Many Languages One Voice

Winter 2011 Language Access Bulletin


Community Outreach Update by Claudia Sandoval and Carol Tsoi

Within just three months, Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) has provided “Know Your Rights” trainings to six communitybased, direct service organizations, attended several community events, and rallied community members to participate in our November 3rd event, Many Stories One Night.

In an effort to educate community members on their language access rights, MLOV’s outreach team provided “Know Your Rights” trainings at Asian Pacific Islander Senior Center, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, La Clínica del Pueblo, Mary’s Center, Neighbors Consejo, and the Vietnamese-American Community Service Center (VACSC). Given in the community members’ native language, these presentations impacted over 200 D.C. English-learning residents. Carol conducts a training at the Vietnamese American Community Service Center. Photo courtesy of Hien Vu.

These community members are now armed and empowered with “I Speak” cards, ready to demand their language access rights in government agencies. Many of the community members were grateful for this information, since many of them were not aware of their rights previously. The community members who helped us fill out our surveys for the State of Language Access Report (to be released Spring 2012) happily responded that they do have help now in their own languages. They enjoy the phone interpretation service as well as bilingual staff members, which were not available a few years ago. Yet, there are still some schools where many parents struggle with communicating with teachers while their own children continue to learn English. To continue building relationships with coalition members, the entire MLOV staff has participated in several community-hosted events. Since the beginning of the academic year, two MLOV staffers have been tutoring students at the VACSC every Wednesday and Thursday after school. In October, MLOV provided Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking volunteers to

help direct seniors at the Asian Pacific Islander Senior Center’s Health Fair. MLOV staff members also attended the Chinatown Service Center’s Fall Festival and Fall Fundraiser Dinner to help raise funds for much needed renovation. In November, two staff members played on VACSC’s team at the Asian American Journalist Association’s Trivia Night to earn prizes for the after-school program.

On November 3rd, MLOV witnessed a large outpour of community support and presence for its much-awaited event, Many Stories One Night. In the weeks leading up to the event, staff members and interns conducted outreach in the forms of flyer distribution, plugs at community events and organizations as well as handing out invitations to the event (and candy!) on Halloween. With the help of the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, MLOV also transported seniors from the Wah Luck House in Chinatown to the MSON event. In the upcoming months, MLOV looks forward to continue conducting further outreach to other immigrant communities. If you know of a community-based event, please let us know! We would like to offer Know Your Rights trainings and support to local community members. For more information, contact Carol (carol@mlovdc.org).

Many Languages One Voice

Winter 2011 Language Access Bulletin


MLOV’s Interns

Since September, our interns have been a tremendous help with policy research, community outreach, event planning, and communications issues...and anything else that needs to get done.

Melanie Brisse, Policy Intern (top left) I’m currently working towards a Master’s degree in international education at the George Washington University. I have a background in teaching English and study abroad program coordination. My interests include the internationalization of U.S. schools, educational equity, and national, state and local policies surrounding the education of LEP/NEP students. I joined MLOV because I wanted to get involved in local advocacy efforts related to immigrant rights and education. I believe that improving language access is critical to increasing equity in the DC area, and I’m excited to be part of a team devoted to achieving equal access to public services for all DC residents. Claudia Sandoval, Outreach Intern (top right) My name is Claudia Sandoval, and I was born and raised in Washington, DC. My family came from La Union, El Salvador which is a small country in Central America. I am the oldest of three and will be the first to graduate college in my family. I currently am attending Trinity Washington University where I will be earning a Bachelor’s degree in Human Relations and minor in Communications. I have worked with children between the grades of Pre-K through fourth grade, as well as in clinical settings as a receptionist and dental assistant. All of my experiences have given me an opportunity to work with people from my own culture. I enjoy working with the Hispanic community, and still continue to give out to the community. Growing up, I had to take an important role in my family. Being the oldest in my family required me to take many responsibilities at a very young age. I was expected to be an interpreter for my parents at every teacher-parent conference, visit to clinic or hospital, or be a translator when filling out applications. I had to, in a sense, become an adult. I was only 9 or 10 years of age when I can recall filling out my own school enrollment application. My experiences as a child are some of the main reasons why I am interested in language access issues. Focusing on the language barriers, especially in the District, had been causing a lot of misunderstanding between two or more different cultures. The communication is not well done; it is important to have interpreters of many languages to be able to communicate with those who struggle. To help and let those know about their rights is my responsibility. Many in our community are not aware of their rights to language access. This is the reason of my interest in language access.

Nipa Islam, Events Intern (below left) Hello! My name is Nipa. I am an Intern for Many Languages One Voice a.k.a. MLOV. My mum is from India and my dad is from Bangladesh. I was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I came to Washington, DC when I was about 7 years old. I attended Wilson Senior High School and I am currently attending Trinity University, majoring in International Affairs. I fluently speak Bengali and English, I can understand Hindi and Urdu, and I am currently studying French. One thing that I enjoy the most is creating artworks, from paintings to sculptors to yarn to bubblegum wrap. One thing that is on the top of my bucket list is traveling to different countries. I am interested in working with LEP/NEP communities because my family members speak another language, and some have very limited English proficiency. I myself did not know much English when I came here and it’s hard to adapt to a new language and new rules and regulations of a country where you do not know much of the language. Therefore, I would like to help those in need of assistance with their rights. Cindy Hernandez, Communications Intern (below right) Hi, my name is Cindy Hernandez. Currently, I am a communication intern at MLOV. I am a sophomore at Trinity Washington University and my major is International Affairs. I was born and raised in DC. What I like most about DC is its cultural diversity. My parents are from El Salvador. I speak English and Spanish, and I am currently taking French at school. My interests include traveling, listening to music (KPOP) and watching cartoons. The reason why I’m interested in LEP/NEP communities is because my parents are limited-English speakers. Growing up, I would usually have to interpret for parents either when they had to go to the doctor or some other office. So, I know firsthand how difficult it can be when you can’t communicate with others or sometimes adapt to a new country because of the language barrier.

VOLUNTEER & INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES with MANY LANGUAGES ONE VOICE Volunteer Interpreters Needed Once a Month French, Mandarin,Tigrigna, Amharic, and Spanish Many Languages One Voice’s student organizing program, the Student Multiethnic Action Research Team (SMART) is looking for community interpreters willing to volunteer a few hours every month to provide simultaneous and consecutive interpretation at our general meetings. General meetings run from 4:30 to 7:30pm every second Friday of the month. Please contact Karina (karina@mlovdc.org) if interested. More about SMART: SMART (Student Multiethnic Action Research Team) is a youth-led decision-making body which advocates and organizes for better education for English Language Learning students and their families. Students are currently concerned with the creation of multi-cultural learning environments, more teachers and counselors for English Language Learners, developing culturally sensitive school lunches and lunch menus, academic credit recovery and enrichment options, interpretation and translation services, and safe spaces.

Community Outreach, Event Planning & Fundraising Internships for Winter 2012

Many Languages One Voice is currently seeking interns for 2012. If you are interested in Community Outreach (bilingual required), Fundraising or Event Planning, please visit our website, www.mlovdc.org, for descriptions of the internships and instructions on how to apply.

Story-Collecting Volunteer

Cantonese or Mandarin Many Languages One Voice is seeking a Cantonese- or Mandarin-speaking volunteer to assist with collecting stories from seniors in Chinatown. The volunteer will assist MLOV’s Outreach Coordinator in filming interviews with seniors during their lunch hour. Availability is based around the seniors’ schedules; if you have an hour to spare during lunch Monday or Wednesday that would be ideal. Fluency in Mandarin or Cantonese, plus patience, compassion, and willingness to listen are required. Experience with film, interviewing, or with videoediting is a plus. Email Carol: carol@mlovdc.org.

Karina, MLOV’s Lead Education Organizer, and Manuel, one of SMART’s Lead Youth Organizers.

Many Languages One Voice

Winter 2011 Language Access Bulletin


The primary mission of Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) is to empower Limited English Proficient/NonEnglish Proficient (LEP/NEP) individuals and communities to equitably access public benefits and services in the District of Columbia. MLOV administers the DC Language Access Coalition, an alliance of over 40 organizations and individuals that work together to ensure that all people - no matter which language they speak - can access public and social services in the District of Columbia. MLOV also houses health and youth organizing projects which equip LEP/NEP individuals to advocate for their rights.


Lidya Abune, SMART Lead Youth Organizer Melanie Brisse, Policy Intern Erin Burns, Communications & Partnerships Coordinator (Americorps VISTA) Jiale Chen, SMART Lead Youth Organizer Tereguebode Goungou, Language Access Advocate Cindy Hernandez, Communications Intern Karina Hurtado-Ocampo, Lead Education Organizer Nipa Islam, Events Intern Manuel Juarez, SMART Lead Youth Organizer Tewodros Kashun, SMART Lead Youth Organizer Sapna Pandya, Executive Director Claudia Sandoval, Outreach Intern Carol Tsoi, Outreach & Development Coordinator (Americorps VISTA)

On December 1st, MLOV celebrated its first “birthday” - the one-year anniversary of our incorporation. Thanks to all our allies, funders, volunteers, and staff who made this milestone possible!


FUNDING PARTNERS Thank you for your generous support of our work in DC’s communities in 2011! All Souls - Beckner Advancement Fund Americorps Cafritz Foundation Cherry Blossom Giving Circle Community Foundation of the National Capital Region/Collaborative for Education Organizing Consumer Health Foundation Hill Snowdon Foundation Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs Meyer Foundation State Farm BOARD Aryan Rodriguez Bocquet, Chair Nadia Firozvi, Secretary Rachel Gwaltney, Director Myron Dean Quon, Treasurer Kadidia Thiero, Director Alice Underwood, Director CONTACT US 3166 Mount Pleasant St. NW Washington, DC 20010

www.mlovdc.org 202.621.0001

Profile for Erin Burns

Many Languages One Voice Winter 2011 Newsletter  

Many Languages One Voice works to empower Limited- and Non-English Proficient communities to equitably access public benefits in Washington,...

Many Languages One Voice Winter 2011 Newsletter  

Many Languages One Voice works to empower Limited- and Non-English Proficient communities to equitably access public benefits in Washington,...

Profile for mlovdc