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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative celebrates third anniversary

Initiative highlights achievements, concerns and future aspirations

Board member of the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative Ethan Maia de Needell speaks at the GINI Anniversary celebration at the Matheson History Museum on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. Ethan Maia de Needell, miembro de la junta de Inclusión de Vecinos Inmigrantes de Gainesville [Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion], habla en la celebración del aniversario de GINI en el Museo de Historia de Matheson el viernes 8 de septiembre de 2023.
Board member of the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative Ethan Maia de Needell speaks at the GINI Anniversary celebration at the Matheson History Museum on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. Ethan Maia de Needell, miembro de la junta de Inclusión de Vecinos Inmigrantes de Gainesville [Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion], habla en la celebración del aniversario de GINI en el Museo de Historia de Matheson el viernes 8 de septiembre de 2023.

Barbara Hughey Reardon believes people want to help the immigrant community — they just aren’t sure where to begin.

That’s where projects like GINI come in.

The Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative, led by the Rural Women’s Health Project, provides opportunities for local immigrants and Gainesville residents looking to support their immigrant community with language access, inclusion initiatives and more. 

Reardon, a 46-year-old Alachua County resident, has been a member of the GINI for over a year. She participates in different initiative activities, informing the community on immigration policies.

Her colleagues commemorated GINI’s third anniversary at the Matheson History Museum Sept. 8.

GINI is seeking to develop a more inclusive environment by targeting the county’s most detrimental issues.

The celebration entailed initiative members gathering together to recognize the project’s recent achievements, ongoing concerns and future goals.

Several community members and program directors spoke at the commemoration. They highlighted different issues, amongst which language accessibility was a fundamental worry.

“People who speak languages other than English are here, yet oftentimes are erased from the narratives that are told about our community in North Central Florida,” Laura Gonzales, Director of Language Access Florida, said.

GINI’s efforts allowed for language access to slowly rise its way up to the surface.

Since its establishment, GINI has been working on devising a plan acknowledging immigrant communities.

The plan, labeled as the GINI Blueprint, has 60 contributing members, eight organizations and the voices of 182 foreign-born participants from a GINI survey. The plan specifies the actions necessary to create a more inclusive community, the GINI Immigrant Program Manager Ethan Maia de Needel said at the event.

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The GINI Blueprint is structured on five goals: engaged communities, equitable access, healthy communities, safe communities and equitable education.

GINI recognized many of the plan’s accomplishments.

Maia de Needell acknowledged the work of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs after the implementation of Spanish signage at several of the city’s signature parks.

He also mentioned Alachua County’s opening of the immigrant liaison position, titled language access and integrated inclusion specialist.

The Gainesville Police Department has seen progress with a recently established program that allows multilingual officers to become certified language translators.

A language line has also been established, which allows for seamless communication if a translator can’t be physically present at an emergency.

GPD and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office are working on releasing a public statement addressing fears of more vulnerable communities, said Veronica Robleto, program director at the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County.

“The community needs policies that hold in place,” Robin Lewy, director of the Rural Women's Health Project, said.

The museum also took the opportunity to recognize a recently implemented exhibit centered around language inclusivity at the celebration.

“One of the things that I’m proudest of the Matheson Museum is it’s a place where everyone can feel safe and where every kind of uncomfortable subject can be discussed,” Robert Mounts, President of the Matheson Museum, said. 

“We're all about diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said “We strongly believe in that.”

The Rural Women’s Health Project also opened a trial contract with the interpretation and translation service LanguageLine Solutions. 

Some organizations that already joined the contract are the Mobile Outreach Clinic, Grace Marketplace, Suwannee River Area Health Education Center and the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County.

“Any organization that is interested in expanding their language access is welcome to join us today,” Maia de Needell said. 

Although GINI has made progress in growing language inclusivity in Alachua County, residents and contributing organizations are eager to keep going.

“I think there is still work to be done,” Gracia Fernandez, executive assistant of the City of Gainesville’s communication department, said. “I think there are still activities we can add.”

Fernandez, a 20-year-old Gainesville resident, moved to the city from El Salvador. She understands the need for language representation as she identifies with both communities, she said.

GINI is eager to continue growing inclusivity.

“Language access is the first step. You don't hear about the other problems until you can actually communicate with the community,” de Needell said.

Contact Nicole at nbeltran@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @nicolebeltg




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Nicole Beltran

Nicole Beltran is a second-year journalism and economics major, and she's the caimán desk editor this semester. In her free time, she enjoys reading, journaling, and watching musicals.


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