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The Census Search For Hard to Count Communities

Nguoi-Viet Daily News, News Report, Denise L. Poon Posted: Mar 25, 2010

At first glance, this small pocket calendar with a beautiful photo depicting a Thai Buddhist temple on its front cover may not seem important. For those in the targeted Thai community, the image is a sacred endorsement encouraging all Thais to complete and return the 2010 Census form.
Thai advertisement for 2010 CensusThai advertisement for 2010 Census
This unique and culturally significant message is among one of many specialized outreach efforts taking place throughout Asian ethnic and some hard-to-count communities ― HTCs in Census speak ― that are of special interest in the 2010 Census outreach.

Generally speaking, HTC communities consist of new immigrants who come with language, education and economic barriers. Although the Census Bureau has language guides for the 2010 Census form in nearly 60 languages, L.A. County has identified more than 92 different spoken in this region.

Experience from Californias 2000 Census outreach efforts showed that a three-pronged approach, TQM, was needed this time around. TQM stands for (1) Trusted Messengers; (2) Questionnaire Assistance Centers staffed by community based organizations in the hardest to count areas; and (3) Microtargeted, locally created ethnic media outreach was a winning combination resulting in Californias mail response rates outpacing the nation.

Community-based organizations and local ethnic media outlets are key in getting the hardest-to-count Californians to respond because they can address the fears and concerns in culturally sensitive, appropriate and effective ways, said Ditas Katague, director of the California Complete Count Committee.

Many leaders of community-based organizations said they think that the drastically decreased California state funding for Census outreach ― $24.7 million in 2000 compared to $2 million in 2010 ― has mobilized community groups and inspired awareness and volunteer outreach.

Trusted community messengers like Buddhist monks distributing the Thai calendars at temples emphasize that responses to the Census are confidential, safe and important.

Chancee Martorell, founder and executive director of the Thai Community Development Group, said the 2010 Thai community response is crucial. When we conducted outreach and education 10 years ago, we expected a full count close to 100,000. We did not get a complete count. In fact, we believe there was a 25 percent undercount.

After that disappointing outcome 10 years ago, Martorell and the Royal Thai Consulate worked together to deploy community leaders to local gathering spots including markets, shops, restaurants, garment factories, work places and places of worship.

What is your #9? reads some of the Thai-language literature, referring to the race question on the U.S. Census form. Outreach efforts include emphasizing that Thais should specifically write-in their race.

The current king of Thailand is the ninth reigning king. We explain to Thais why answering Question #9 is sacred ― you are doing it for your king and he is highly venerated ― as close to deity for Thais as it gets.

In the Tongan community, some of the varied outreach methods have taken place through churches and Kava Circles. In these gatherings, opinion leaders share ideas while drinking homemade Kava, a brown-colored, earthy organic tasting drink made with filtered-pounded kava root powder mixed with cold water.

For the Cambodian community outreach efforts, Suely Ngouy, executive director of the Khmer Girls in Action, is training 45 teens to personally canvass homes in Long Beach. This area is home to the largest Cambodians population in the United States ― approximately 100,000 people. The message from the volunteer youths is that filling out and returning the 2010 Census form is safe and important.

Since Census forms are supposed to be mailed back to the government by April 1, or April Fool's Day, Ngouy is using the tongue-in-cheek phrase, Dont be fooled, the Census makes complete Cents, emphasizing that every response equates to about $1,400 in federal funding.

She elaborated on the use of young ambassadors: Immigrant communities depend on children as navigators of the system. The female family role tends to include responsibility of taking care of siblings, supporting parents/grandparents and providing important he recommendation and guidance, in participating with the Census.

One of the young volunteers, 16-year-old Dianna Brang, is trying to educate her family and community members.

My mom doesnt know much and is skeptical," she said. "People believe that the Census is a way to deport or catch undocumented immigrants. Theyre afraid of what government might find out, but I want to explain that its important to get involved. Its important because we dont get enough parks and recreation in our area.

Those working on Korean outreach said their fear of the government finding undocumented immigrants is one possible reason why a tremendous number of Koreans did not participate in the last decennial census. In 2000, the Southern California South Korean Consulate estimated there were 678,000 South Koreans in Los Angeles. The Census captured fewer than 195,000 an undercount of a half million. This year, an outreach strategy through Korean churches is to make sure that everyone participates, regardless of immigration status.

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