ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – Iliana Sepulveda is a board member for Latinas Network – a group that connects Roanoke’s Hispanic population to resources in the city. She moved to Roanoke five years ago.

“I was like where’s the office of Latino affairs and there was no office of Latino affairs,” she said.

She’s watched access for Spanish speakers grow and says a lot of that started with COVID. Roanoke’s Community Inclusion Coordinator Katie Hedrick agrees. She says the pandemic highlighted communication gaps in getting out health information.

“That discrepancy had always been there but it was just really brought to light during COVID,” she said.

“From there I’ve seen more information, we have a Facebook page in Spanish with the city, you get health information, and transportation information,” said Sepulveda. “If you can get help and services in your own language, it shortens the gap.”

Hedrick says the city’s bilingual pay supplement helps by compensating bilingual employees who interpret for residents, and Roanoke City Public Schools has a liaison that assists Hispanic families and students.

Hedrick says by providing access to members of the Hispanic community who may not speak fluent English, the entire city can have more access to those residents’ skills.

“These people that come from other countries or other cultures have really valuable experiences and stories and education and skills,” said Hedrick.

Sepulveda says providing multilingual access to city resources can help the Hispanic community in Roanoke succeed.

“They can see themselves in us, we look like them we speak like them,” she said. “Representation matters, it matters a lot.”

Sepulveda says there’s still work to be done, and she and Latinas Network is working to connect resources to expand access in Roanoke.

To find more information about resources for Spanish speakers in Roanoke visit City of Roanoke–en español | Roanoke, VA (roanokeva.gov)

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