By JAY CLARK
Warroad Minn. (July 7, 2016) — The Laotian community of Warroad, Minnesota on July 1 met with Roseau County District 2 Commissioner Jack Swanson for a community dialogue. The meeting took place at the Warroad Buddhist temple and was held at the start of the Laotian community summer festival events.
Communication was a prominent factor in the problems listed by the approximately 70 members of the Laotian community attending. The residents said there are problems communicating when attempting to apply for a state driver’s license, when they are pulled over by the police and when having to fill out government forms.
Laotian residents at the meeting also echoed health officials’ concerns with troubles identifying exact medical symptoms and making sure patients understood and followed through with medications. Families with children present said there are challenges in getting and understanding information from the schools.
Laotian students said they liked Warroad’s Asian culture and how the Warroad community feels like a big family. Some said Warroad would be even better if it had a Walmart and a store with ethnic Asian foods and merchandise.
Ideas put forward by Laotians included getting bilingual Laotian college and high school students who could be interpreters, a Laotian social and outreach worker who could work out of the temple, as well as holding health clinics and other information events at the temple.
Commissioner Swanson said he wanted to work with the Laotian community to improve communications with government agencies and that this would be the first of a series of meetings. Warroad Laotian leaders say they hoped the meeting would be the start of a strong and productive working relationship between elected officials and the Laotian community and encouraged Swanson to invite the Warroad mayor and others to join him at future meetings.
After the meeting, Swanson and his wife Angie, a first grade teacher at Warroad Elementary School, were served Laotian foods including papaya salad, barbecued eggs, noodle salad and sticky rice. Swanson said members of his own church would welcome the chance to visit the temple and learn more about Laotian culture and the Buddhist religion.