Helping Those In Need: Employment Readiness Program

The Charles Family pictured above were successful in finding a job in Fargo with the help of the Employment Readiness Program at CDR.

When Marie and Jean Charles left their native Haiti for Fargo, North Dakota, in 1994, they had one thing in mind; they wanted a better life for their children and themselves.  Taking care of eight children in Haiti was a struggle for the married couple. Jean worked in both carpentry and farming while Marie worked as a food vendor.  Part time, she sold clothes at the local market. All this was not enough to support their family and to make matters worse, political tension started to brew in the country. The latter was the final push for the Charles to leave the country.

Coming to the States had its problem. For one, they had to learn to adjust to the ice cold winters of North Dakota. The biggest blow to the family came six months after their arrival when Jean suffered a massive stroke after a vein in his head ruptured. With her husband in a coma and unable to work, Marie became the sole bread winner of the family. But this too would take a dive in 2008 when she was laid off from her position as an assembly line worker.

Marie had connections with Cultural Diversity Resources before she was laid off. She was introduced to the organization by a friend and soon began attending workshops that the organization held. Through these workshops, Marie met and became friends with executive director, Yoke-Sim Gunaratne.  So when she was unemployed, she knew who to turn to. CDR did not only assist her with a job search but also helped her to create a resume and fill out job applications. This assistance offered by CDR is what is known as the Employment Readiness Program.

The Employment Readiness program was set up by CDR to prepare people of diverse backgrounds wanting to enter the work force. It is a program particularly used by New Americans who are not quite able to navigate the work culture in the States. The program is currently overseen by Community Coordinator, Marysol Hankel and Community Connectors Nasir Said and Lazo Qaradaxi.  The concept of the Employment Readiness program is sometimes misunderstood by some clients as Hankel explained.

“Some come with the idea that we will get them a job,” she said. “I explain that we are here to offer guidance with job applications, interviews, and the work culture in the US.  Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee them a job.”

At times, their job goes beyond helping with just applications and interviews. Often times, they also act as interpreters for clients with limited English proficiency. They go to interviews with these clients and to job orientations once a job has been secured. Once a job has been secured, community connectors frequently check in with clients to see how they are faring with their new positions.

New Americans face a lot of problems when trying to enter the job market. One problem is that some companies are not eager to hire New Americans.

“Companies are not willing to invest in New Americans,” Marysol said – “ Most of the time, companies do not have staff who  are culturally competent to help New Americans transition into a new work culture environment.”

There is also a recurring issue of New Americans dropping down the job ladder when they relocate to the States. In their countries of origin, most of them held important high skilled positions but in the States, they find themselves being qualified for only low skilled positions. Nasir Said boils the reason for this occurrence to language.

“More than experience, language determines the type of job New Americans get,” he said. “I worked with a lady who was a high school teacher in Somalia. She was very good but her understanding of English was poor. She has not been able to find a job for over  two years.”

Clients helped by the Employment Readiness programs have gotten jobs at places like Hornbacher’s, Fargo Assembly, Cardinal IG and SunGold Foods and when they are employed, they showcase attitudes that impress their employers.

“Once they do get the job, they are hardworking- Said said. “I called a manager from Hornbacher’s and he had great reviews for one of my clients.”

Hankel explained this “can do” attitude of New Americans she has helped through the Employment readiness program:

“New Americans are willing to learn and they adapt quickly to a work environment,” she said. “All they need is an opportunity to show this.”

This opportunity has been given to Marie Charles who has been working as a Kitchen Assistant at Edgewood Vista for four years. With Jean fully recovered but still unable to work, Marie credits the Employment Readiness program in making the process of job hunting a much easier one.

CDR Programs: Metro Interpreting Resource Center

Migration comes with its challenges for both migrants and the communities that they migrate to. Effective communication between migrants and members of the host community becomes an issue when there is a language barrier. In the Fargo-Moorhead area, Cultural Diversity Resources is tackling this issue with one of its most successful programs, the Metro Interpreting Resource Center (MIRC).

The whole idea of MIRC began in 2004. It was the brainchild of representatives of five local public agencies (City of Fargo, City of West Fargo, Moorhead Public School, Fargo Public School and West Fargo Public School) who decided that the Fargo-Moorhead area was in need of not only interpretive services but also a centralized pool of interpreters. After months of detailed planning, the MIRC program officially began providing services in November of 2005. Since its inception, Hatidza Murad has been the coordinator of the program. She defines the program as “an organization that provides non-medical interpreters in the Fargo-Moorhead area.” She credits the help of the county and state in providing the much needed English testing and proficiency needed for the hours of interpretation.

Yoke-Sim Gunaratne, executive director of Cultural Diversity Resources, addressing MIRC interpreters in training


The type of interpreting that MIRC provides is consecutive interpreting. Murad describes this type of interpreting as the one mostly used in the offices of doctors and counselors. However, as a non-medical interpretive service, MIRC does not provide services in such offices. Instead, MIRC interpreters provide their services in areas such as the public sector (schools, courts), and federal agencies (social security, immigration). According to Murad, the area that requires MIRC interpreters the most is the school system. She explained that the interpreters are not needed for the students but rather for their parents.

“It is much harder for the elderly population to assimilate to the language and the culture,” she said. “The younger population is no longer in need.”

The variety of languages needed for interpretation indicates how diverse the Fargo-Moorhead area has become. They include Arabic, Bosnian, Albanian, Somali, Nepali, Kurdish, Swahili, Kirundi, Dinka and occasionally Vietnamese, Spanish and Madi.

To be able to qualify as a MIRC interpreter, one must be at least bilingual and possess a high English proficiency. But it does not just end there as Murad made known.

“We do a background check by the Fargo Police Department because we work with schools and the public,” she said. “They also have to pass the English language proficiency test before they go through training.”

MIRC interpreters during Community Interpreting Training

The type of training MIRC interpreters receive is Community Interpreter Training. It is a comprehensive 40 hour program administered by Cross-Cultural Medical Interpreter Services in Fargo. Areas such as basic interpreting skills, culture and its impact on interpreting and terminologies are covered during this 40 hour training session. According to Murad, role playing is a central theme of training. There is also a strict focus on code of ethics and understanding confidentiality.

Within the course of training, the behaviors of interpreters such as their all-around conduct and reliability are checked. This is done in order to assure that the money that goes into training is not going to waste. Training of interpreters is by no means cheap. Murad asserts that it costs $500 to train one person. This money comes from the public sector fund which comprises funds from Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead Public Schools, the City of Fargo and the Department of Human Services of North Dakota. Murad explained how important these funds are in sustaining the MIRC program.

As long as we have the funds, we will be able to train and recruit interpreters and provide non-medical services to fill the gap that was missing prior to our establishment.

Hatidza Murad, MIRC coordinator

One could easily say that MIRC has been rather successful since its formation in 2005 because the program now serves areas outside the Fargo-Moorhead Metro area such as Grand Forks, Sioux Falls, Jamestown, Fergus Falls and even Minneapolis.

And even with recent competition with advances in translation and interpreting technology, Murad is confident that MIRC will still be a force in the community.

“We are hoping to still be here and provide our services,” she said. “Even though there is competition with technology, some services still want the one-on-one interaction with clients.”

To support Cultural Diversity Resources and its MIRC program, please go to , click on the “Donate what I can” button, search for Cultural Diversity Resources and make a tax deductible contribution.

Profile of an Educational Migrant

Fartun Jamal,
An international student at Concordia College

It is no secret that the Fargo-Moorhead area is a booming town for immigration. People are, however, quick to class most migrants in the area as refugees or labor migrants. We sometimes forget about the educational migrants, the affirmed international students, who come from all over the world to study in one of the three universities (North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College) in the area. In this blog post, we will profile one of these unsung migrants: Fartun Jamal.

Fartun Jamal, a senior at Concordia College, is no stranger when it comes to educational migration. She has experienced studying in Somalia, Kenya, Malaysia and now the United States.

Jamal faced a language barrier when she first moved to Kenya. Her elementary education in Somalia was easy. Even though teachers generally taught in English, it was common for them to explain complex ideas in Somali. In Kenya, on the other hand, the language of instruction was strictly English.

“In Kenya, it was very difficult at first because the teachers taught only in English and I had limited English at the time,” she said.

To rectify this problem, Jamal was taken to a Language Center to learn English for a year before she enrolled in a Kenyan school. Thankfully, the school that she enrolled in had a lot of non-English speaking international students. The school offered English as a Second Language as an option for these students which Jamal did not hesitate to take. Jamal’s school in Kenya was based on the British educational system. At the end of her secondary education, she was required to take the International General Certificate of Secondary Education examination (IGCSE).  For a Somali girl who had to face hardship with a language unfamiliar to her, Jamal passed her IGCSEs and even got an A in English Language.

Because of her excellent grades, Jamal was given the option of furthering her education in any country she preferred. The choice was not hard; she wanted to go to Malaysia.

“When I was in high school many of my friends went to Malaysia,” she said of her decision to study in Malaysia.

She spent a year in Malaysia taking a pre-university foundation course. If in Kenya her problem was the language, in Malaysia, it was the challenging Australian System that the foundation course was built on.

“It was hard. I loved chemistry but I used to get Ds in it,” she said. “The course was intense with a lot of analysis.”

True to her character, Jamal did not let this faze her and was able to complete the course successfully. Now it was time to think about university and funny enough a university in the United States was far from being an option.

“The U.S was not on my mind in the beginning,” she said. “I wanted to go to Spain.”

Even though Spain was her preferred choice, Jamal applied to many universities worldwide. Concordia College and the University of Manitoba in Canada were the first to contact her. In the end, she chose Concordia College.

“It seemed liked they really wanted me here,” she said of her decision. “Also, Concordia gave me a good scholarship based on my academics.”

Initially, Jamal encountered problems with the issue of plagiarism in university. She was unfamiliar with the idea of giving credit to a source even when she paraphrased the original text. She also had a problem with spelling. She was used to the English way of spelling rather than the American way (e.g. labour vs. labor). Apart from those minor mishaps, studying in the United States has been a pleasure for Jamal.

Although, studying here has been good, Jamal has a few complaints about how attendance is viewed in college.

“In Malaysia, they treated you as an adult and attendance was not required,” she said. “Here in Concordia, attendance is important and they treat me like the way they treated me in high school.”

Jamal believes that in college, it is up to students to decide to show up to class or not. In the long run, she believes that they, the students, will be affected in the long run and they need to figure that out on their own.

Her view on class attendance does not mean that she skips classes. As a global studies major and a political science minor, Jamal is working very hard to achieve her dream of becoming a global humanitarian.

“I would love to do something with advocacy and social justice especially of women and refugees.”

To achieve this, she has not only interned with Lutheran Social Services but has also worked with the Dorothy Day Food Pantry. She has met many other immigrants and refugees from working at these two places and has a good idea as to why the Fargo-Moorhead area is attracting groups of immigrants and refugees.

“The Fargo-Moorhead area is cheap and there is a possibility of getting jobs,” she said. “The life over here is easier than where they were living.”

For Jamal, the part of the Fargo-Moorhead area that is most attractive is the social life.

“I like the nightlife,” she said. “It reminds me of back home but on the other hand there is a time and age limit. Some stores close early and you cannot drink until you are 21 which is different from where I am from.”

What does Jamal dislike about the Fargo-Moorhead area?

She quickly frowned when asked this question. “Is that even a question?” she asked in reply.

It was obvious what she disliked: the blistering cold winters.

“The winters here make you lazy,” she said. “I used to be involved in a lot of sports like soccer but now I have pot belly.”

Remember to Support CDR Today on Giving Hearts Day

This post is just a quick reminder that today, the 14th of February, is Giving Hearts Day. Donations and contributions will be accepted till midnight tonight so you still have time to help. You do not even have to leave your house or office to make a donation. Just:

1. Go to

2. Click on “Donate”, followed by “C” for Cultural Diversity Resources.

3. Make your donation

Your contributions, which are tax deductible, will go a long way in helping build and promote diversity in the community. It will also help support our various services such as community interpreting and financial literacy. For more information, take a look at the flyer above. Thank you SO much for your support. It is greatly appreciated

Note: You have just till midnight to make a donation! Let’s Go!

Giving Hearts Day: Help Us Expand Diversity

For the entire world, 14th February is synonymous to Valentine’s Day but for the select few, it marks a day to give back to non-profits and charities in North Dakota and Western Minnesota. February 14th marks Giving Hearts Day.

What is Giving Hearts Day?

It is a virtual fundraising project started in 2008 by two North Dakotan organizations, Dakota Medical Foundation and Impact Foundation. Their goal was to help charities and nonprofits in North Dakota and Western Minnesota garner contributions from donors. They created a site,, where participating charities could upload their profile and their cause. This site gives donors the opportunity to look up charities and donate to their cause. On 14th of February, for 24 hours only, donors can log on to and make contributions to the participating non-profits of their choice.

Cultural Diversity Resources (CDR) happens to be one of these participating non-profits. Based in Fargo, ND, CDR has been a force to reckon with in the region. Since our inception in 1994, CDR has dealt with the growing issue of diversity in the area. The Fargo-Moorhead community is increasingly becoming a haven for new immigrants and refugees. It is the duty of CDR to help not only new immigrants and refugees adjust and integrate into the community but also to help the region learn how to adapt to its changing demographic smoothly.

CDR provides services such as education on living skills and cultural adjustments for new immigrants and refugees. We also help new immigrants and refugees find jobs. One service of CDR that fast growing is the Metro Interpreting Resource Center (MIRC). MIRC is an initiative that trains and provides professional bilingual interpreters to various business and organizations in the community. This is a much needed service as the community’s demography now includes several non-native English language speakers. Interpretive services include and are not limited to Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Bosnian.

The growth of CDR as an organization and a recognized regional leader has been through the efforts of various grants and contributions given by foundations and other donors. These donations have gone a great way in helping CDR provide services for new immigrants and refugees and also the community at large.

A donation for CDR on Giving Hearts Day will go a long way in helping maintain and further develop these services.

So on the 14th of February, after you purchase a box of chocolate and/or roses for your loved ones, it will be really appreciated if you could log on to, search for Cultural Diversity Resources and make a considerable donation towards our cause.

Together Building Strength

On October 30, 2012 Cultural Diversity Resources in partnership with the tri-colleges (Concordia College, MSUM, and NDSU) hosted the 2012 Annual Diversity Conference at the NDSU Memorial Union.

This year’s conference featured keynote speaker Donald Asher.  Asher is an internationally recognized author and speaker on the topics of careers and higher education.  He works with students from high school through graduate school, and works with educators all over the country.  He has spoken internationally on globalism, the international skill set, and cross-cultural communications in China, India, Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, and Morocco.

Conference participants also enjoyed Asher’s presentation on, “Leadership Skills: How to discover yours and work with other at all generational levels.”  This presentation addressed the following questions:  What is your leadership style?  Does it need to change as your career and your assignments evolve?  How do Boomers view Millennial?  Does it Matter? What happened to Gen X anyway?  Participants were able to:

1) Learn about leadership styles to work effectively with all generational levels.

2) Apply skills to work with leaders with different levels of authority in diverse environments.


The conference also offered a panel on “Social, economic, health and educational cultures and values of Bhutanese and Somali Communities.”  With many refugees resettled in Fargo-Moorhead in last decade it was a great opportunity for participants to learn about our diverse community.  Currently, the predominant groups of refugees resettled in our area are from Bhutan.  In addition, both primary and secondary Somali refugees represent one of the fastest growing communities in Fargo-Moorhead.  Consequently, the community, educators, businesses and various service providers are eager to learn more about their cultures and values to provide more effective and efficient services and resources.  The panel was a great opportunity for participants to learn and appreciate differences in culture and gave participants an opportunity to ask questions.   Participants were able to:

1)      Learn general information about Bhutanese & Somali population in Fargo-Moorhead metro area.

2)      Learn and understand their culture, family structure, educational levels, and health issues.

3)      Compare and contrast American culture with Bhutanese and Somali cultures.

4)      Hold an interactive discussion to understand and address local issues, challenges and opportunities.

For more information about our opportunities and services please visit us at:

2012 Champions for Diversity Awards

Since 1994, Cultural Diversity Resources has served as the regional intercultural bridge that strengthens bonds and facilitates understanding among diverse communities.  On Tuesday, October 30, 2012, Cultural Diversity Resources in collaboration with the Tri-Colleges (Concordia College, MSUM, and NDSU) hosted the 2012 Diversity Awards.

The 2012 Diversity Awards banquet was celebrated at the NDSU Memorial Union.  We had the privilege of having Former Fargo Mayor, Bruce Furness, deliver an exceptional key-note: “Local Impact of Globalization: Cities Response.”  After the key-note the banquet proceeded with the Awards Ceremony, which recognized the best practices that supported and encouraged diversity and inclusion in business, education, and community in Fargo-Moorhead for 2012.


We would like to recognize the 2012 Diversity Award Winners:

Business: Hornbacher’s -Brenda Richman, Education Coordinator

As Education Coordinator, Brenda promotes diversity by tailoring training and development to the many needs of the store’s team members.

She also ensures that new associates with specific needs or requests receive translators suited to their individual needs.

Coaching is one of the specific initiatives that Brenda drives.  The Coaching Initiative provides front line leaders with the tools necessary to work with a diverse team in order to create positive results.

Coaching has been a great way to help managers and supervisors ensure effective conversation with employees.

It allows a way to address problems constructively and more importantly it affords team members the opportunity to move towards a positive mutual solution.

Brenda paved the way for Volunteers in Action.  Volunteers in Action is an associate led effort to assist the community in non-profit fund raising.

Brenda helped each store set goals and as a result,  in 2011, Hornbacher’s had the best year by raising more than $78,000 for the United Way Campaign.

Brenda is always looking for a way to make Hornbacher’s a better place to work and shop.


Community: Jefferson’s English Club-Fargo Public Schools

Leaders Aida Laughlin, Alyssa Lindley and Carolyn Monsingo work tirelessly to provide opportunities for students and parents to learn English.

The skills learned by parents through the English Club allow them to become more involved in their child’s learning, day to day interactions in the community and at the workplace.

Aida, Alyssa and Carolyn work year round without monetary compensation preparing lessons, recruiting volunteers and directly teaching as many as 30 Bhutanese adults every Wednesday evening.

They also provide their services directly at the Schools and other locations in the community.

The ELL Department at Fargo Public Schools recognizes The English Club as critical to the advancement and success of its English as a second language students.

Education: Better Together-Concordia College

A student group on the Campus of Concordia College, Better Together recognizes religious diversity as a fact of life and that momentous constructive change can occur in the world when people respond to religious diversity in a positive way.

Many students in religious and non religious traditions have said that Better Together is one of the major places where they feel comfortable and safe on the Concordia Campus.