Post Featured Image

Dakotaland’s commitment was sparked when the political refugees from Thailand began making their home in Huron, South Dakota. “These were ‘my people’ and even though I had learned English during my time in the refugee camp, most of the other Karen spoke no English,” recalls Htee Na. This new population was excited to be free of their war–torn country, but they had little experience with the American way of life. They did not understand the banking system, the legal system, the school system, the health care system, etc. The Karen had much to learn and due to the language barrier, had no one to explain to them how it worked.

Htee Na was the cornerstone to the department as she was originally the only interpreter at the credit union and one of the few active Karen translators in Huron. The word spread quickly and she was soon explaining the many facets of banking to her members, as well as addressing questions from every other aspect of their lives. 

She took phone calls at all hours of the day and night, visited employers, assisted law enforcement, attended doctor appointments, met with teachers, all in an effort to help the Karen people with these major life changes. “I worked hard to ensure my people had a resource and used my voice and experience to guide and teach them. I am especially proud to see how far my people have come and what they have accomplished since coming to the United States,” boasted Htee Na. Buying cars, owning homes, going to college and opening businesses are just a few of the milestones we have shared with our Karen members.

While Dakotaland was emerging as a leader in providing interpreting services to the Karen community numbering nearly 1,000 accounts, it was evident more Karen interpreters would be needed to meet the demand. Htee Na also noticed the welcomed addition of other non–English speaking individuals (primarily Hispanic) coming to the credit union for assistance. Spanish interpreters were soon added to the department and they too became more than just a financial translator for their English as a second language members.

Htee Na and her interpreting staff speak six languages collectively and they all agree, translating financial services is only the beginning. “You need a kind heart to be a translator at Dakotaland,” Htee Na proclaimed. The interest our interpreters take in their members doesn’t stop with a checking account, they become involved in their daily lives and are many times asked about an array of topics such as citizenship, insurance, paying bills, funerals, taxes, car repairs and more. Htee Na went on to explain, “Our members are comfortable here and know we will not judge their situation or ability to understand the process. We do our best to help where we can or direct them to a better resource if needed.”

The Dakotaland Interpreter Team shares their translating skills with all 10 of our branch locations in our 27–county service area and receive an immense amount of satisfaction knowing they provide a valuable service to a growing population of English as a second language citizens.