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Sussex Countian
  • Volunteers canvass Georgetown for We Are One survey

  • Students from the University of Delaware and various community volunteers hit the streets of Georgetown on Saturday to conduct the We Are One Georgetown survey.
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    • TAKE THE SURVEY
      Visit the Town of Georgetown website at www.georgetowndel.com to take the We Are One Georgetown survey. The survey will be available online until April 22.
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      TAKE THE SURVEY
      Visit the Town of Georgetown website at www.georgetowndel.com to take the We Are One Georgetown survey. The survey will be available online until April 22.
  • Students from the University of Delaware and various community volunteers hit the streets of Georgetown on Saturday to conduct the We Are One Georgetown survey.
    The survey is available in English and Spanish, and the information obtained through this effort will be used by local organizations interested in making changes in Georgetown that will improve communications, facilitate intercultural relations and create civic pride.
    Eli Ramos, a member of the Georgetown Blueprint Communities Revitalization planning team and a member of the We Are One committee, said the effort really boils down to residents' ability to understand one another.
    "We aren't any different. The only thing that is different is the language," Ramos said. "We hope this information will help improve relations and understanding. Also, the data collected will be very useful for future projects and activities."
    The survey, which is available online until April 22, asks participants about their geographic information, their news gathering habits, whether they've heard of and attended certain town events, and how they feel about the Georgetown community as a whole, among other things.
    Although the survey was born from the Georgetown Blueprint Communities team, it's been April Veness' University of Delaware Global At Home class that has taken the reigns.
    Veness said throughout the semester, her students have not only looked at intercultural relations in Georgetown, but also at how various small towns in the United States have dealt with immigrant integration.
    A lot of misunderstandings, Veness said, are derived from the language barrier, which is slowly dissipating.
    "In Georgetown, the children all know English and many of the parents are becoming increasingly bilingual," she said. "Every year it gets better and better."
    Another obstacle, according to Veness, is the fear among some of the community's white residents that, as more immigrants move in, the town's traditions and history are compromised. But what really interests Veness is not what longer-term residents may be losing from this integration, but what they stand to gain.
    "There's so much diversity in Sussex County," she said. "How do people embrace that in a positive way? How do we, as a community and as a society, see the benefits of that?"
    Veness said the conservative argument against the integration of immigrants has generally been focused on undocumented illegal aliens. However, with immigration reform happening at a federal level, "that could change quickly," she said.
    "These people are your neighbors. These people are here, and we need to find a way to enjoy that and find the best possible world for that," she said.
    On Saturday, the town was split into several quadrants, and each one was staffed with a group of volunteers. Each group contained at least one bilingual volunteer. Brandon and Stacy Munoz, who are siblings and students at Delaware Technical & Community College, and their cousin Kimberly Herrera, a sophomore at Sussex Technical High School, were among the bilingual volunteers.
    Page 2 of 2 - "We were asked to help by Habitat for Humanity," said Brandon Munoz. "We don't mind helping, and I'm excited because I've never done anything like this before."
    Habitat for Humanity is one of six sponsors of the survey, the others being the Town of Georgetown, St. Michael's Catholic Church, Hoy en Delaware, the Blueprints Communities team and the University of Delaware.
    Jillian Kelley, family services coordinator with Habitat for Humanity and a volunteer, said her organization is "all about building homes for people, and creating communities with those homes. Through this project, we can integrate (the Latino population) into the community, and through Habitat, we can do the same thing with our homes."
    Summer Okoye, a 16-year-old Millsboro resident and a sophomore at Sussex Technical High School, said she heard about the volunteer opportunity at school.
    "I'm interested in learning more about the Latino community in Georgetown because I live so close by," Okoye said.
    According to Veness, volunteers conducted roughly 160 surveys on Saturday and, as of press time, roughly 20 surveys had been completed online. Once the survey is removed from the town's website, Veness' class will begin analyzing its results. At the end of the project, Veness said her students will donate two deliverables to the town. The graduate students in the class are compiling a report that will describe the integration of immigrants in small towns all over the county. The undergraduate students will compile a report derived from Georgetown's data.
    "What has to happen after this is, all the stakeholders in Georgetown will have to make hard decisions about what they want to do to improve communications and cultural integration in their town and community," Veness said. "We'll make a few recommendations, but ultimately they'll be the ones stepping forward to take this to the next stage."
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