The COVID-19 outbreak has not been easy for Marlynn Livai-Larron. “This is not normal for us,” she readily admits. A single mother of six children, the youngest only six-months old, Marlynn has had challenges juggling her job, caring for a household, and keeping her family safe and healthy. Marlynn is also Marshallese, and has watched with sadness as the coronavirus has disproportionately impacted her community, even spreading to members of her own family. But she hasn’t only been watching. Because of her position working as a translator and paraprofessional for Dubuque Community Schools, Marlynn was quickly pulled into the City’s response to the crisis. Since then, when not caring for her family, she has been at her computer working to keep Dubuque safe. She
has translated COVID-related documents and interpreted on phone calls, helped guide countless individuals through the process of getting services or finding medical care, and even hand delivered food to families impacted by the outbreak. Perhaps most impressively, she worked with other Marshallese leaders to compile a list of nearly one hundred Marshallese families so that they could receive information, medical supplies like masks and thermometers, food and groceries, and notifications about COVID-19 testing sessions.
Marlynn credits much of what she has been able to achieve to the strength she gets from her culture and community. The Marshallese are a very family-oriented and social people, which has made this crisis that requires isolation and distancing extremely difficult. But it is these same values that have enabled Marlynn to be so effective. She has put her family members to work helping with the COVID response, and the close ties between families and friends has allowed information to spread quickly and effectively through the Marshallese community. But throughout the crisis, she still considers her most important source of strength to be her children. “I give them power,” she says. “They give me more power.”