Weather Forecast


Raices project will take next step Thursday in fight to stop Latino poverty in rural areas

WILLMAR -- A nationally known speaker on cultural diversity will headline the second community meeting for the Raices project Thursday evening.

Roberto Dansie, a speaker and clinical psychologist from California, will speak to students from Willmar and other area high schools during the day on Thursday. He will address the community meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ridgewater College cafeteria. Following Dansie's speech, Raices workers will describe the results of more than 90 interviews with members of the local Latino community.

The meeting will include presentations in English and in Spanish, with translation provided.

The meeting will begin with a meal at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ridgewater cafeteria. Anyone interested in the Raices project is invited to attend. There is no admission charge.

Raices, which means roots in Spanish, is a three-year project to combat poverty in rural Latino communities. The project, funded by a $5.4 million grant, is taking place in four places. In addition to the Willmar/Pennock area in Minnesota, communities in Iowa, Idaho and Oregon are also participating.

It is a joint effort of the Northwest Area Foundation, the Main Street Project and the University of Iowa Institute for Support of Latino Families and Communities.

The one-on-one interviews that will be the focus of the Thursday meeting are the first step in the project. The next step will be to identify issues the community can address in the remaining years of the project.

A dozen trained volunteers conducted the interviews with Latino men and women who represent different parts of the community. They talked to men and women, young and old. They spoke to people in the work force, stay-at-home moms, students, businesspeople and those involved in sports.

"We really think that we have what it means to be Latino in Willmar," said Amalia Anderson, a co-leader of the project. "There are some really amazing stories out there, and a lot of pride about living in Willmar."

The interviews touched on what brought people to Willmar and what made them stay, she said. Participants were asked to talk about challenges they had found living in the area and about their hopes and dreams for the community.

Maria Diaz, the community organizer for Raices, said many segments of the Willmar community have collaborated to make Dansie's visit and the community gathering successful.

"In my experience, it doesn't happen in every other community," she said. "We will be reaching more than 2,000 people in one day."

Anderson and Diaz said they believe the Latino and Anglo residents of Willmar will see that they have similar hopes for the community.

Ultimately, it should bring the communities closer "because they have so much more in common than they had thought," she said.