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Continued: New Brooklyn Park cultural services unit aims to help diverse cultures in times of crisis

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 29, 2014 - 4:08 PM

Training sessions also dealt with how communities respond to crises and disasters, fire safety and disaster recovery, severe weather and psychological first aid, among other things.

CSU is not just about translating information and sending it out. “We try to work with communities to integrate people,” McDonald said. “That conversation gets people involved and engaged and lets them be a part of the solution,” she said.

That means talking about “the best ways to communicate so a message gets through and it includes context. It’s about building understanding.”

CSU volunteers work side by side with public officials toward a common goal, which may be an unusual dynamic for some newcomers, she said. Also, it gives them a forum to talk about what they’ve been through.

A first-time volunteer

Judith Ferreyra Garcia, a native of Mexico, was moved to volunteer with Brooklyn Center’s CSU after learning about it at an outreach event for her job as a community health worker at Northpoint Health and Wellness Center in north Minneapolis. CSU is her first volunteer service. “One thing that caught my attention is that I’m really scared of tornadoes. They said they would have training for that,” she said.

Garcia knew firsthand that many local Latinos didn’t take advantage of resources in the wake of the tornado. Often, they didn’t even leave their homes. “They didn’t have any food or money and they didn’t know they could get help,” she said. “Every time the police or firefighters would come knocking, they would think they were there to do something bad to them.”

She used to be fearful to call the police. “Now I know they’re not mad if I call, and they’re thankful for the call and it can prevent bad things from happening,” Garcia said.

All in all, through the training, “I did learn a lot and I have been able to share it with my family and friends,” she said.


Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at

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