The Town of Chapel Hill received a $4,000 grant aiming to support residents with limited English proficiency by providing emergency messaging in multiple languages.
The Duke Energy Foundation awarded the grant in an effort to promote a sense of community and inclusion among the Town’s increasingly diverse population.
“We appreciate Duke Energy Foundation’s support for our efforts to improve outreach and safety in our diverse community," Town Manager Maurice Jones said in a press release. "Emergency communications that are accessible to all support our community value of being a place for everyone.”
As of 2016, 16.5 percent of Chapel Hill residents were born outside of the United States, which means immigrants and refugees comprise nearly 10,000 of the 59,000 Chapel Hill residents. Funding from this grant will be used to develop emergency messages related to severe weather and water contamination in Spanish, Burmese, Karen and Mandarin Chinese, among other languages.
Aaruba Ayesha, a UNC junior, serves on the Executive Board of UNC’s Refugee Community Partnership. RCP works to uplift local immigrant and refugee communities through relationship-based support and opportunity development.
“Chapel Hill’s refugee population is so often overlooked, which can get really frustrating considering how big a role they play in our community,” Ayesha said. "It’s heartwarming and validating to know that other people care about and want to support our refugee and immigrant friends, and I hope this is a catalyst to even more efforts toward inclusion."
The Town of Chapel Hill is one of 65 organizations across North Carolina to receive funding from Duke Energy’s Powerful Communities grant. In addition to the Town of Chapel Hill, the Town of Carrboro also received money from the grant.
Indira Everett, district manager of government and community relations for Duke Energy, awarded the Town of Carrboro a $6,000 grant on behalf of Duke Energy on Tuesday night. This funding will support low-income communities experiencing severe weather by purchasing storm resiliency guides and providing survival kits that will similarly consider different language barriers.
Board of Alderman member Sammy Slade said at the board's meeting Tuesday that he thinks it's ironic Duke Energy is donating to emergency preparedness when they contribute to the problem.
"Duke Energy is the leading contributor to climate change in our state, and as much as they will only be producing 8 percent of their electrical generation from renewable energy by, I believe it's 2030, the rest of it is coal, natural gas and nuclear," he said.
Duke Energy awards more than $30 million in these charitable grants every year, and according to their website, the program is meant to “build powerful communities where nature and wildlife thrive, students can excel and a talented workforce drives economic prosperity for all.”
Sarah Viñas, assistant director of the Office for Housing and Community for the Town of Chapel Hill, said she anticipates the process of developing these messages and translating them to Chapel Hill’s primary languages will be completed over the next year. This effort will continue after the one-year grant period as the Town further develops language accessibility to residents with limited English proficiency, she said.
Translating emergency messages is an initiative organized by the Building Integrated Communities Project, a collaboration between the Town of Chapel Hill and local individuals and community groups intended to promote increased knowledge, civic engagement and community development.
Other initiatives have included purchasing interpretation equipment for Town and community use, adding new multilingual children’s books to the Chapel Hill Public Library’s collection, and providing financial support to residents seeking DACA renewal assistance.
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