More partnerships urged for APIA communities


As state legislators and Governor Mark Dayton announced a deal to end the state government shutdown, Lillian McDonald was in a Twin Cities Public Television studio in Saint Paul recording a special show called “MN Government Shutdown and You” for immigrant and refugee communities in the state.

McDonald is the Executive Director of Emergency and Community Health Outreach (ECHO), which is an organization that bridges the communications gap for immigrants and refugees in Minnesota.

The former broadcast journalist and her organization felt the need to provide the video resource for immigrant communities in Minnesota because “in tough budgetary times information is power.  This is a time when communities need to come together.  The economy is being challenged and forcing people to take a closer look at their lives,” said McDonald recently.

The show hopes to give viewers, especially those who are new to the United States, basic understanding as to what caused the government shutdown. The question and answer format gives those watching the show resources they can use to help them deal with a lack of services if the government were to ever shut down again.

McDonald says she heard stories of immigrants and refugees canceling health appointments because of confusion, even though these services were still available during the shutdown because they were deemed essential. That was a main reason ECHO staff felt the need to get information out as soon as possible.

“We all have basic human needs, every culture,” said McDonald. “At ECHO, we know immigrants are learning new skills, in addition to the skills they brought with them from their home country. This video will provide them with added knowledge so they can seek help to find a solution to their problems and we can provide clear communication and direction.”

The video isn’t just for immigrants and refugees in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  The video will be distributed throughout the entire state with the help of other social service agencies such as the Minnesota Literary Council. The program is also being translated into several languages, including Hmong.

While the video is focused on resources, speakers also addressed cutbacks in health, human services, education and other areas. McDonald believes “there are resources out there for the Asian American community.

They are just changing because of the tough economic times.  But there will be new partnerships between different organizations and that’s how these resources will continue. The key is for members of all communities to diversify and join together so these services can still continue.”

This is not the first time ECHO has provided this type of service.  The organization is a leader in multi-language health, safety, civic engagement and emergency readiness communication. Through close collaborations with health and safety experts and bilingual community leaders, ECHO crafts programming for television and radio broadcast, phone, website and social media distribution.

Watch the MN Government Shutdown and You program on Twin Cities Public Television or on ECHO’s website at Or request a free copy of the DVD by emailing Joanna Olson at or call her at 651-789-4337.