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Inspired by a tragic past, Urmaru Balde works to make Iowa more welcoming to immigrants

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

Escaping child slavery at the age of 12 was only the first time Umaru Balde, director of the Dubuque Multicultural Family Center, needed to fight for his freedom. He eventually left his native country of Guinea-Bissau and embarked on a long journey that would lead Balde to Iowa, where he now works to make it a more welcoming place for immigrants.

Set to speak at the Dubuque NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet Nov. 6, Balde joined Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe to tell his story and share his hopes for the future.

Later, blind and visually impaired Iowans got to experience their own tour of frights after Scare DSM and Iowa Radio Reading Information Service created a touch tour. IRRIS Executive Director Maryfrancis Evans and one of the touch tour participants 90-year-old Mary Sheetz talk about making this October entertainment staple more accessible.


  • Umaru Balde, director, Dubuque Multicultural Family Center
  • Maryfrancis Evans, executive director, Iowa Radio Reading Information Service
  • Mary Sheetz, Scare DSM touch tour participant
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Dani Gehr is a producer for River to River and Talk of Iowa. Dani came to Iowa from her hometown in the northwest suburbs of Chicago to attend Iowa State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism, international studies and French. Before coming to IPR, Dani covered local government in Story County for the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register.