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Rahla Salah, left, visits Wednesday with Karen Raske at Willmar Library. Salah was one of twelve interpreters who completed 40 hours of professional interpreting training. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Somali community honors a dozen new certified interpreters in Willmar, Minn.

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WILLMAR -- The Willmar area has a dozen new certified Somali language interpreters, something that pleases the elders in the Somali community.

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The five women and seven men completed 40 hours of professional interpreter training at Ridgewater College this year.

Several of the elders spoke at a graduation ceremony for the new interpreters Wednesday evening at the Willmar Public Library.

About 25 people attended. Chairman of the elders Hassan Jirow handed the certificates to the graduates and shook their hands.

The class was a collaboration of the elders, the college and West Central Interpreting and Consulting Services, a new business in Willmar.

West Central Interpreting and Consulting is owned by Abdirizak Mahboub and Sahra Gure, a husband and wife team. Mahboub said the elders urged him to open an interpreting business, because the community needed one.

The ceremony opened with a recitation from the Koran, and several elders spoke. The graduates were the interpreters.

"We are people who always work hard and help each other," said Muhumed Hassan. He thanked the instructors who worked with the students and said he wanted the interpreters to be able to help all people, "whether they are white or black, in a fair way."

Another of the elders, Dalmar Gorod, said, "I need you to help the community, and I pray for you to help the community."

Hussein Jirow, who was among the first Somali people in Willmar 14 years ago, told stories of the early days in Willmar. At first, the community was about 50 men working night shifts at Jennie-O Turkey Store. Between them, they had five cars and two drivers' licenses, he said, as people laughed. The community now numbers about 3,500.

Many people used the money they earned to bring their families here, he said, and now the community just bought a mosque, and Somali people are beginning to buy houses.

Jirow said Willmar is "a very good place, ... I call it Willmar, the Mother of the People."

The students went through the class "because most of our community, particularly the ladies, don't speak the language," said Amina Hussein, who has lived in Willmar seven months. "There was a lot of need."

Some of the interpreters are graduates of Willmar Senior High and are attending Ridgewater College.

"We want to help the community," said Bashir Abdullahi. He has been in Willmar since 2006 and is a student at Ridgewater.

"I need to tell you how proud I am of all of them," said Bev Hartzburg, a Ridgewater instructor before she helped distribute the certificates. "They worked very hard to get here tonight."

During the class, the interpreters learned medical terms and a code of ethics for interpreters, Hartzburg said. They also taught her about the Somali culture.

Dr. Jim Tiede, who attended the ceremony, said there is a need for professional interpreters in the medical community. "They need to know medical terminology and understand confidentiality," he said.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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