Durango Telegraph - Community approach to cultural relations: Unity Coalition to host forum
Community approach to cultural relations: Unity Coalition to host forum

Students are not the only ones taking a hard look at interracial relations on a local level. Next Tuesday, the La Plata Unity Coalition, a diverse group of organizations and community members, will host a community forum to present the findings of its six-month study of cultural relations in La Plata County. The forum also will gather input on how to improve such relations and create a more integrated community.

The group hopes to accomplish this over the next four years with the help of a $300,000 grant from the Colorado Trust aimed at encouraging greater understanding and acceptance of cultural and ethnic diversity. The effort has been named “The Unity Project” by the coalition, with the mission of creating opportunities where local residents from all walks can interact, share and learn from one another.

For the study, the Coalition gathered close to 200 surveys and listened to focus groups made up of educators, health professionals, service providers, employers and law enforcement officials. The group also held focus groups and forums for recent immigrants on their experiences in La Plata County. Among the study’s findings:

• The struggle to create an integrated community is having a profound effect on La Plata County’s population.

• Despite efforts of numerous individuals and organizations, only communitywide solutions can prevent a crisis in meeting the basic needs of all residents.

• The reality of cultural relations within the county poses a challenge to the values of local residents and the perception that La Plata County is a welcoming and inclusive community.

The Coalition’s final plan might include things such as

training initiatives, service programs, special events, additional research or community dialogues, to name a few.

The grant the Coalition received is part of the Colorado Trust’s Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Families Initiative (SIRFI). La Plata County is one of 19 communities in Colorado to receive a SIRFI grant, which is meant to generate innovative approaches and strategies for immigrant integration.

The forum takes place Tues., Oct. 2, from 6: 30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Peaks Room at the Durango Recreation Center. It is open to anyone living in La Plata County and includes food and child care. Spanish language translation will be available.

For more information, call Tracy Daniels of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, 259-3583; or Shirena Trujillo Long, 247-7290.