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BELOIT, Wis. (AP) - Cecilia Ramirez is bilingual, has three part-time jobs, volunteers at her church and in many other areas of the community, and is going to school to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.
However, the above activities were foreign to her 20 years ago when she moved to Beloit from Mexico with her husband who had acquired a job here. The couple settled in, began their life in Beloit and started raising a family, but that life also was riddled with many communication problems.
“I even needed a translator to go with me when I went to buy diapers. I didn’t know how to read the sizes,” she said.
Today, the married mom of two teenagers smiles when she thinks of some of the past stories she has to tell before she mastered English. But those experiences also have given her a wealth of understanding for what other Latino families go through in the community.
As such, Ramirez is a staff member - the only paid staff member -working for the Latino Service Providers Coalition. Her office is in the former Brother Dutton School and she works with Latino clients who have a variety of concerns.
Like living in a parallel universe or separate reality, many of her clients have moved here and are settled in, but a lack of understanding of the language, traditions and/or customs and laws keep many unconnected to the community around them.
Paperwork concerns seem paramount, especially where items such as birth certificates are concerned.
“I have been helping families to amend birth certificates,” she told the Beloit Daily News (http://bit.ly/1cWzhax).
In Mexico, for example, a child often does not have a middle name or initial.
That tradition, however, is not always understood in this country and often causes mix-ups when a birth certificate is filled out at the hospital. Some think the first part of the hyphenated name is the middle name, for example. Sometimes an initial is filled in or an abbreviation for no middle name is placed on the certificate, she explains. And, sometimes spelling errors occur and an “s” is mistaken for a “z” at the end of a name or just the opposite.
For parents who aren’t savvy in English, concerns about the birth certificate sometimes don’t get raised until the child becomes a teen and wants an ID card or a driver’s license.
If mistakes have been made, the family then has to go to court to get the name changed, pay court costs and then the notice must be published in a local newspaper and publishing costs paid, Ramirez said. Social Security cards also sometimes need amending.
“It gets very costly, especially if there are two or three children or more.”
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