Vietnamese Community Voices Concerns To Officials

An open town hall meeting Thursday evening at the Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in Biloxi was an opportunity for the Vietnamese community to get answers from various organizations with the help of interpreters.

"The Vietnamese community has a language barrier, a cultural barrier that makes it difficult for them to interface with the structures of the government. Particularly after Hurricane Katrina, it's been clear that the Point Cadet area was one of the most severely damaged devastated areas, and the people here have the highest degree of problems with language barriers and culture barriers and yet the service centers weren't here," organizer Don LaGrone said.

Representatives of FEMA, the American Red Cross, the City of Biloxi, and Congressman Gene Taylor's office were there to try to ease any concerns the community may have.

According to Rev. Thich Hang Dat, people want to know how they can get a trailer from FEMA, how they can build a new house, and how can they keep their property intact.

The questions ran the gamut. Some wanted to find out how to get cultural foods, since some of the elderly Vietnamese are not used to eating American food.

It was simply an opportunity to include those who have felt left out because of a language and culture gap.

In case of future emergencies, there's at least one way to bridge that gap.

"We may need to have someone who has bilingual skills so that they can help our communities to translate, to communicate directly with the city officers," Rev. Dat said.

Many believe as South Mississippi rebuilds, that may be an option worth looking into.

Another meeting will be held in about two weeks at the Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in Biloxi at 179 Oak Street, and it's open to everyone.