Workshop Stresses Learning About Latino Workforce's Cultural Differences

It's a situation that most of us would be frightened to find ourselves in.

"Think about going to another country and you don't know a word of their language," instructor Romy Simpson challenges the lunch time crowd.

She knows first hand the cultural differences people face.

"I grew up in South American and the United States," says the Biloxi resident.  "I have knowledge of both cultures."

And she's sharing that knowledge with her South Mississippi neighbors and the growing Latino population.

"You're not choosing to be ignorant of a culture. You just don't have an opportunity to come into contact with that culture."

That potential clash of cultures created by the post-hurricane rebuilding effort is why Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a  Cultural Differences Workshop featuring Romy and her sister Beatrice.

"It's very effective because they are from Columbia and Ecuador," says Harrison County Chamber of Commerce official Katie Sandoz. "They lived that experience so they come in and really teach the culture because they've been there and lived it."

Gulf Coast Laundry Service Plant Manager Billy Dickerson says it's important to reach out to this population.

"There are gaps and that's what we're in the process of bridging right now," says Dickerson. "It's one of our corporate goals that we're all going to try and learn a minimal amount of Spanish."

He hopes to gain a better understanding of the language and the culture of the people already playing a vital part in the entire region's recovery.

"They are extremely valuable. They are the hardest workers. I mean, they're great."