Local News

Wilson Rescue Workers Building Bridges with Latinos

Posted May 7, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— There's no disputing the fact that North Carolina is experiencing major population growth, but for some people, moving to the Tar Heel state can actually be dangerous because of the language barrier.

Spanish-speaking newcomers could have a hard time communicating with English-speaking rescue workers in the event of an emergency, but in Wilson County, some workers are doing something about the problem.

Firefighter Kenneth Brewer has learned some simple Spanish phrases that could mean the difference between life and death. Until now, he has relied on an interpreter at fires when the victims didn't speak English. On a few occasions, Brewer says the language gap has interfered with his efforts to help others.

North Carolina's Spanish-speaking community is growing dramatically, but the bridge between English and Spanish isn't keeping up. But, according to Youthella Ivory of the Wilson Police Department, the graduates at every level of government are beginning to see improvements in job performance.

Mayra Jaimes knows what it's like to need help. She often finds herself interpreting for her mother in a country where Spanish has not taken hold.

Twenty-three Wilson city employees have completed a 13-week conversational Spanish course covering the basics that might be needed in an emergency.