The Red Cross is making a special effort to reach out to residents of Oklahoma City's growing Hispanic community, especially those who are vulnerable to house fires.
“The Oklahoma Hispanic population is growing exponentially,” said Toby Friesen, program coordinator for the American Red Cross Resiliency Program. “As a community we need to be prepared to respond bilingually when disaster strikes.”
The Resiliency Program is designed to help disaster-stricken communities bounce back and become better than ever, Friesen said.
Red Cross officials noticed the agency was receiving a lot of requests for help from people in south Oklahoma City, where there is a large Hispanic community, Friesen said.
“We want to build trust so that if our assistance is needed, that people feel comfortable reaching out to the Red Cross,” he said.
Friesen said leaders of the Resiliency Program wanted to start with communities that are more vulnerable to not knowing how to come back from a disaster.
During the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 19, the Red Cross teamed with local volunteers, the Oklahoma City Fire Department, Dell and other sponsors to provide fire safety information to residents of south Oklahoma City.
Gloria Torres, a Spanish teacher at Santa Fe South High School, participated in the service day with her students.
“We knocked on doors and talked to them about fire prevention,” Torres said.
Torres said her bilingual students helped translate as they visited neighborhoods.
“I felt very good about giving back to the community,” said Getsemani Ciaz, 16, one of Torres' students. “Not many people know about fire safety.”