Being in Iowa

Being in Iowa is a series of multi-part reports that goes in-depth to examine what it is like to be a minority in Iowa. The reports look at the issues, history, cultural traditions, challenges and future of each diverse group of people that are part of Iowa. Reporter Rob Dillard tells the stories by talking with the leaders and having intimate discussions with some members of each group, and taking listeners to the places that exemplify these communities.

Being in Iowa is funded in part by The Principal Financial Group Foundation, the Alliant Energy Foundation, The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation, and Veridian Credit Union.

Ways To Connect

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

 Two runners are nearing the finish line on a goal to complete a full, 26-point-two mile marathon in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

On the way to Corning in the southwest part of the state, 49-year-old Dennis Lee stops at a sandwich shop to load up for a long run into a strong head wind.

“I’ll have a foot-long sausage, egg and cheese on flat bread,” he orders

The temperature is unusually cold for early May, and there’s a threat of thunderstorms, so Lee knows he’ll need energy.

“Typically we burn about 35-hundred calories during the run,” he says.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Short poems, essays and pieces of fiction are going on display at 13 libraries across the state. It's a project designed to connect the public to literature from a collective of artists known as Grin City.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

  Iowa Writers Workshop graduate Tim Bascom was 16 years old when his parents decided to return to Ethiopia where they had served a previous mission. It was 1977. The country was in turmoil, emperor Haile Selassie booted from power, a Marxist revolution in progress. Bascom says he needed to document the experience of living through this revolt to understand how it shaped his young life.

Jane Kettering, St. Ambrose University

    There is a Middle East Institute on the campus of St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

The immediate question that comes to mind is why a Catholic University in the middle of America has created an academic institute focused on the Arab world.

John Pemble, Iowa Public Radio

The 2015 Iowa Teacher of the Year is a middle school Spanish teacher from Ecuador, who is on a mission to introduce more multiculturalism into classrooms.

Woodward Academy

Iowa high school sports history is being made this week at the boys’ state basketball tournament in Des Moines. For the first time, a school for delinquent young men is competing.

University of Iowa Law School

The nation has spent the past month honoring black history. Part of that past includes the lingering disparities between blacks and whites in the U.S.

Rob Dillard

Dan and Diane Folkers gave up their middle-class lives to move to the remote mountains of Papua New Guinea more than two years ago.

Rob Dillard

Clemen Wilcox counts how long she’s lived in the Midwest by the number of winters, not years. This is her 13th.

Rob Dillard

Sarai Tillinghast is encouraging minority students to become teachers in Des Moines. She shares moments from her own meaningful career to convince them to join the ranks. Here's the story of the project known as Dream to Teach.

Rob Dillard

It’s time for Arabic class at Central Academy on the west edge of downtown Des Moines. Today’s lesson: naming the seasons of the year.

Rob Dillard

A newly redesigned building sits on a heavily traveled stretch of road in Windsor Heights, a Des Moines suburb.  GiGi's Playhouse is a lively spot where people with Down syndrome gain self-confidence.


Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti

Writer Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti injects her Cameroonian heritage into stories about people who share her same multicultural background.

University of Northern Iowa

Two Waterloo-area residents are in the midst of producing a series of five documentaries that chronicle the history of the city. The filmmakers are focusing their camera on a few locations that are key to Waterloo’s past.

Iowa Department of Public Health

A doctor on loan to the Iowa Department of Public Health is back in the state after a stint in Sierra Leone. The native of Nepal was there to track the ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

Rob Dillard

When the Iowa Department for the Blind threw a party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of White Cane Day, it called on a former client to provide entertainment. 

Photo extracted from a Dove Program poster circulated on the White Earth Indian Reservation.

The recipient of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s highest honor is being recognized for her environmental work while serving on the Jasper County Conservation Board and elsewhere. The Newton woman credits her Native American heritage for instilling a love of Mother Earth.

Credit: Grinnell College

Grinnell College President Dr. Raynard Kington leads one of the nation’s most selective, academically challenging institutions of higher learning. He uses his family’s oppressed past to introduce social justice issues to students.

Rob Dillard

  Midwest-based hybrid seed giant Dupont-Pioneer, which has offices worldwide, employs someone called

   an Organizational Vibrancy Champion. In other words, she’s in charge of diversity.

“An organization becomes more vibrant when you have diversity inclusion, when you have employee engagement.”

Claudia Schabel

  holds the job on the sprawling campus of Dupont-Pioneer in Johnston. She’s nearly ideal for the job. Half of her character was shaped next to her twin sister in South America.

“I grew up in Capinas, Sao Paolo in Brazil,” she said

Rob Dillard

Li Zhao Mandelbaum comes from a nation of more than one-point-three-billion people. So the concept of small is relative.

“I often introduce myself, I’m from Nanning, a small city in China, and people will say OK tell me the population, and I will say well, we have about six million population,” she said.

Her hometown is about an hour’s flight west of Hong Kong near China’s border with Vietnam. It’s known for its lush greenery and hilly terrain. But despite its beauty, it wasn’t enough for the adventurous, young Li Zhao.

Rob Dillard

A few dozen of Central Iowa’s high-tech brain trust are pouring beers and munching tacos on the fifth floor of a downtown Des Moines office building.

They’ve come together a few days before the lights go out on a business incubator that became the centerpiece for an area known as Silicon Sixth.

They exchange pleasantries with the two men at the heart of Startup City Des Moines – Christian Renaud and Tej Dhawan.

Before the party began, Dhawan sat in a remote conference room and reflected on what he was looking to accomplish for high-tech firms in Central Iowa.

Rob Dillard

The marching band’s drum-line sets the tone for the first day of classes at Marshalltown High School.

Sixteen-hundred students fill the football-field bleachers as the school’s principal – Aiddy Phomvisay  – grabs a mike.

“If I could have your attention for less than five minutes," he announced. "I know that’s amazing that Mr. Phomvisay is only going to take five minutes to address the student body.”

Rob Dillard

Her name is Salome Nengean – born in the northwest Iowa town of Sioux Center – raised in Nigeria. She’s 29 now and, with her husband, frequently travels to the place of her youth where her mother still lives. She says during one of these trips in 2011.

“We happened to meet two kids, who were living with an elderly woman, and somehow they just caught our attention," she said. "There was just something cute about them, there were other kids, but they would just separate from the rest of the group and sit together.”

IPR

All this week, IPR’s Rob Dillard has been exploring what it means to be a caregiver in Iowa.

We wrap up the series by having a discussion with a number of caregivers in our state about the challenges of care giving and their hopes for the future.

We’ve spent the week with people who perform some of the toughest work there is – the professionals and families who care for the sick and dying.  We conclude with a road trip to the south side of Des Moines. Correspondent Rob Dillard rides along with a home health nurse as she makes one of her 20 or so weekly patient visits. She delivers a style of health care reminiscent of bygone days when medical personnel often arrived at their patients’ doors to provide services. This kind of direct care is still in demand for those who are unable to venture far from home.

Iowa Public Radio has been bringing attention to the families and professionals who tend to the health needs of Iowans. It can be stressful and emotional work, perhaps never more so than when the person in need of care nears the end of life. Correspondent Rob Dillard takes us to a comfortable, peaceful place set on the edge of woods in Des Moines. It’s a hospice, a home where many people move to spend their final days.

Correspondent Rob Dillard examines the difficult responsibilities that go along with taking care of someone who is sinking into dementia. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s. According to figures supplied by the local Alzheimer’s Association, some 69-thousand Iowans suffer from this debilitating disease. This number will likely swell to 71-thousand by 2020 and 77-thousand by 2025.  Dementia most often strikes the elderly. But in this report, Rob tells us it can also hit people in the prime of their life, bringing heartbreak to families with plans for their golden years.

Today, we continue our week-long series “Being a Caregiver in Iowa.” Yesterday we looked at professional caregivers, who face low pay and lack of training. In most cases, however, the responsibilities of direct care-giving fall to families. When it comes to families with an autistic child, this work can last a lifetime. In Part Two of our series, Iowa Public Radio correspondent Rob Dillard takes us to West Des Moines, where we meet the parents of an autistic boy, and their teenage daughter, who keeps an eye on her kid brother.

Iowa Public Radio is returning this week to its “Being in Iowa” series. Over the next five days, correspondent Rob Dillard will be asking the question, what does it mean to be a caregiver in the state? We begin today by talking about those who provide direct care for a living. It’s an occupation dominated by women and it’s one of the fastest growing workforces in the state. It’s also a job that pays very little and that many end up leaving. Rob Dillard reports on why – and how the state may be changing that.

Religion In Iowa

Oct 26, 2012
NASA

This week’s Being in Iowa series has taken us to Hindu and Sikh Temples, examined the faiths of Mormons and Quakers, and talked with those who choose not to believe. Ben Kieffer and wraps up the series with a conversation about faith in some of Iowa’s smaller religious communities. Iowans tell their stories of coming to faith and moving away from it, and how those journeys have impacted lives.

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