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Wichita Radio Host Filling Information Void For Spanish Speakers During Pandemic


In this month’s In The Mix, Carla Eckels speaks with a radio host helping the Spanish speaking community in Wichita.

During the pandemic, getting accurate information in a timely manner has often been difficult. For people whose primary language isn’t English, the task is that much more complicated.

Radio host Claudia Amaro has been working from her Wichita home translating information for Spanish speakers across Kansas. She says people are anxious to know the latest updates about COVID-19. KMUW's Carla Eckels spoke with Amaro about overcoming the language barrier.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve been reaching out to the Spanish speaking community using your radio show as well as Facebook. What are you hearing from listeners?

I heard a lot of people from southwest Kansas, for example, where they have information in Spanish that is very limited. And they are really worried because ... they look at updates on social media and they understand because of some of the images that something is going on but it’s frustrating for them because they don’t know what’s happening, they don’t know how to proceed.

For example, when the state governor gave the stay-at-home order, people in southwest Kansas were confusing the order with a lockdown so they were afraid if they went out the police was going to stop them and ask them for a letter or something like that, so there’s a lot of uncertainty and frustration in our community because people need more information.

What about education? Now that schools are closed, what are parents saying about online learning for their children?

I do have a lot of communication with the Spanish-speaking parents and some of the comments that I’ve heard and the anxiety that those parents are feeling, it’s huge, because first of all, the lack of understanding because of the language differences and just the technology part of it. A lot of our families don’t even use an email address, so most of the schools are communicating to parents through email and that is a problem when they don’t have an account.

And I know a lot of school districts have provided some devices to their students but a lot of these parents are relying on their oldest children to help the little ones because again, they don’t have much knowledge about how to use the technology and the communication is very limited.

How do you go about sharing information about COVID-19?

Since we have a large audience on our Facebook, social media and a radio station online, one of the things that I’m really working hard these days from home is I’m translating as much information as I can. I’m trying to bring different subjects related to COVID-19, but not necessarily focus on the crisis but on solutions, maybe like the legal aspects of those things, the financial aspect, mental health during COVID-19. I’m trying to keep up the hope with our community through the radio show.

In the Mix can be heard each month on KMUW's weekly show, The Range.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.