Hispanic community finds a bridge to better communication

A lively crowd was welcomed by brightly-colored paper decorations and an abundance of food May 28 when citizens met the Federal Way’s new Hispanic liaison.

Human services manager Lynnette Hynden introduces the city’s new Hispanic liaison

Human services manager Lynnette Hynden introduces the city’s new Hispanic liaison

A lively crowd was welcomed by brightly-colored paper decorations and an abundance of food May 28 when citizens met the Federal Way’s new Hispanic liaison.

Teniel Sabin is the Spanish-speaking community’s newest resource for staying connected with what’s happening in Federal Way. She is the city’s first Hispanic liaison. Her services will assist the city’s 9,135 Spanish-speaking residents — 10.5 percent of the population. Sabin organized a lunch at City Hall on Wednesday to personally introduce herself.

There, Mayor Jack Dovey recognized that Federal Way is rapidly growing and, as it does, its diverse population gives the city character.

“Federal Way is becoming a great place to live because of the people who live here,” he said.

He told the crowd members they were part of a new era as the city tries to communicate with everyone who lives here, regardless of their native tongue.

“We feel it’s important that all our citizens take part in what’s happening here in Federal Way,” Dovey said.

Sabin’s efforts will allow the Latino community to get involved. She will perform several of the same duties as the city’s Korean liaison, K.C. Jung. This position was established in 2001. Its success led to the hiring of a Hispanic liaison.

Sabin will translate and organize quarterly meetings with the Spanish-speaking community. She has already created a Spanish phone line and plans to modify the city’s Web site at www.cityoffederalway.com to include information in Spanish. A survey asking residents how Sabin can be of service to them and what her priorities ought to be was also provided at the lunch meeting.

Spanish-speaking residents will now have a means to voice their concerns and suggestions, Federal Way business owner Carlos Arreola said.

“It’s time for the Spanish community to get involved in city issues,” he said.

The liaison position could help improve communication between residents and the police department, Arreola said. Some officers are rude or unprofessional toward Hispanics and the language barrier prohibits effective communication in some cases, he said.

The inability to communicate also makes it harder to launch one’s own business, Arreola said. In the past, owning a business in Federal Way has been difficult for non-English speaking residents because so many procedures must be completed and there was nobody to assist in the process, Hugo Garcia said. He is hopeful the position will lead to more cooperation and support between the city and its business community.

The city thought filling the Hispanic liaison position would be difficult, but instead, the position attracted several applicants, human services manager Lynnette Hynden said. The city chose Sabin because she seemed to fit the job’s criteria best, she said. Sabin’s decade-long study of Spanish brought her to countries such as Mexico, Guatemala and Peru. She also works as a parent liaison at Adelaide Elementary School and lives in Federal Way. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in teaching.

“I’m interested in community-building and making sure everyone has equal access to services,” Sabin said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253)925-5565.

To reach Teniel Sabin, call (253) 835-2613 or the Spanish phone line at (253) 835-2606.

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