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Internet Site Brings International Community Together in Dallas-Fort Worth Area


Immigrants and their families comprise more than one third of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one of the fastest growing urban regions in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau includes in the metropolitan area 12 counties with more than 24,000 square kilometers and six million people. Many ethnic and cultural groups have established distinct communities in the region, but they have also come to know each other through a web site that promotes and celebrates the area's diversity. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Dallas.

A cattle drive in the Fort Worth Stockyards, reminiscent of the old West, is the traditional image many people associate with Texas and one the community here preserves.

But Fort Worth and Dallas, both fast-paced modern cities with dozens of suburbs, are now home to people from all over the world.

Here in the Dallas suburb of Plano, Librarian Janeen Zhu spends part of each week reading stories in Mandarin Chinese to children, most of whom speak the language at home.

Another librarian tells the stories in English which Zhu says helps many immigrant children adapt. "For those parents and children who are just here (just arrived), who are trying to learn English, this could be a good experience for them."

In another part of the same library, immigrants from various nations come together with instructors who help them learn English. Although they sit in the same classes, Janeen Zhu says many do not mingle in society.

"I actually find that is the truth, that Chinese tend to stick together with Chinese and Spanish-speaking people tend to be together with their group and Indians try to be together with their group."

In an effort to bring communities together, Anne Marie Weiss-Armush started a non-profit organization called DFW International Community Alliance.

She says after living and traveling abroad, she feels drawn to those from other cultures who now live in the North Texas area. "I started reading the census figures and discovered that 40 percent of our residents today are either foreign born or the children of foreign born and this figure, I think, is amazing," she said.

But she says she is not surprised people stay mostly within their ethnic groups. Besides language and culture, she says immigrant communities here are often in distinct social and economic classes. "The Indians, for example, the average family income is double that of the average American family income. For the Mexican immigrants, the family income average is half that of the average American family," she said.

But the DFW International Community Alliance tries to bridge the gaps and bring people together through festivals, concerts and other small events that the organization's web site publicizes.

"Many families have told us they plan what events they could attend over the weekend that are good for children, that might be free and might open their minds and help them to become global citizens," she said.

The DFW International Community Alliance web site now receives over 10 million hits per month and provides links to various other ethnic community web pages. In addition, the organization provides guides and services to immigrants

on such important matters as learning English and learning more about this growing urban area the immigrants now call home.

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