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OFFICIAL JOB TITLE: Marshallese Outreach Coordinator, Arkansas Support Network
WHERE ARE YOU FROM? HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED HERE?: I’m from the Marshall Islands but I came to the States when I was two years old, so I’ve been in Northwest Arkansas for 28 years.
What do you love most about Northwest Arkansas?

Honestly, Northwest Arkansas has given me that cultural connection I once longed for as a kid.

How would you describe the Marshallese community of Northwest Arkansas?

Explorers! Like our ancestors before, we gazed up at the skies and followed the stars, sailed across oceans, and arrived at lands we once dreamt of.

What is one thing NWA residents might be surprised to know about the Marshallese community? What do the people hold in the highest regard?

Our Manit (Culture) teaches us to take responsibility for those in need regardless of family relations or personal connections.

May Day/Jemenei (Constitution) Day acknowledges the day our constitution was signed on May 1, 1979, our first step towards independence as a nation. We celebrate with parades, speeches, pageants, sports competitions, and, as always, lots of food.

Rona Masha
What are some ways to experience and learn about the Marshallese Culture in NWA?

Go to a Marshallese event like a Kemem (1st birthday of child), Jemenei Day/Constitution Day celebration, or one of the Christmas events at a Marshallese Church.

Can you teach us a word or phrase? Any words of wisdom imparted to you that you live by?

Iakwe! Like other cultures around the world, greeting one another is the best way to start a conversation. If you greet someone with “iakwe” and a smile you’ll often get more than a conversation, most likely you’ll get a friend. Iakwe by definition also means love and is a combination of two words: “ia” meaning rainbow and “kwe” meaning you. Like people’s reaction to seeing a rainbow after a rainy day, you can’t help but sense love and happiness by saying iakwe.

What is your biggest hope for the future of Springdale and the region?

I would like to see a cultural center that highlights the different cultures in the region that make Northwest Arkansas unique.

What do you do with your free time in Northwest Arkansas? What are some of your favorite spots in the region?

I love community events. Going to events in downtown Springdale is probably one my favorite things to do here. Other than that, I like to bbq in my backyard and I like Emma Ave. Bar & Tap and Core in downtown Springdale.

What is one thing you can’t go without?

I can’t go without a good laugh.

Who inspires you?

My mother.

And lastly, if you gave NWA a tagline what would it be?

Some of my people refer to Northwest Arkansas as the land of opportunity. It is for a lot of us including myself. I have found and experienced a lot of great life changes here.

Editor’s Note: The Jemenei Opening Ceremony will be held at the Jones Center (outdoor basketball court) on Friday, May 25th at 4:00 pm.