The U.S. Department of the Interior this week announced it would grant $217,594 to the Marshallese Education Initiative for the Marshallese Resource and Educational Center in Springdale, Arkansas.

The city and its surroundings are home to the largest concentration of Marshallese residents outside of the Republic of the Marshall Islands — even more than in Hawaii.

The MREC estimates that as many as 12,000 Marshallese reside in northwest Arkansas. Many are employed in the poultry and retail industry.

But they also have challenges.

A Marshallese church service in Springdale, Arkansas, January 2015. Mark Edward Harris/Civil Beat

“The data shows that the Marshallese community in northwest Arkansas experiences high poverty rates, ongoing health and wellness issues, and low educational attainment, especially among the youth,” said Assistant Secretary For Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech in a press release. “This funding, provided by Congress, supports outreach to help decrease these discrepancies and to improve the quality of life for Marshallese families who live in the United States, and specifically for those in northwest Arkansas where such a large population reside.”

The 2010 U.S. Census reports that over 75 percent of Marshallese families in northwest Arkansas are considered low-income and 52% live in poverty — “a figure much higher than the national average of 15%.”

As well, incidents of Type 2 Diabetes in the Marshallese population “is among the highest in the world” among adults, according the American Journal of Public Health in 2015.

And, among Marshallese youth in the Springdale public schools, “a little over 50% graduate from high school and even fewer go on to higher education.

The Marshallese Resource and Educational Center is a nonprofit that provides such services as translation and notary services “and advises on topics such as finances, housing, credit, lemon car laws, domestic abuse, and human trafficking,” says the DOI release.

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