Eleni Gayraud uses the term modern migrants to describe her family. Her parents, her three siblings and she are spread around the world. They have migrated to various countries, to follow different dreams and to respond to different opportunities. “My family didn’t experience anything close to what refugees and migrants in the Greek islands and mainland currently do, but they do know what it’s like to leave everything behind.”
Helping other modern migrants
Eleni had been looking for an opportunity to help people in need. She found Translators without Borders (TWB), and since October 2016 has been one of a dedicated group of Rapid Response Team (RRT) volunteers. “I can help people in a very important way – not only the displaced people but also those working hard to deal with one of the worst migration crises ever. I can put my [translation] skills into practice and be of real help.”
Of course, language is important in any situation, but Eleni is adamant that in situations where people speak many different languages, such as the current refugee crisis, it is key.
“Being able to communicate and understand, helps keep everything from falling apart”
“It helps people cooperate towards the same goal: a harmonic cohabitation and a functional solution to a vital problem. Translators and interpreters contribute and fill in the gaps.”
For personal reasons, Eleni became well-acquainted with the Greek island of Lesvos during the past year. She saw the refugee camps and how local people’s lives changed because of the crisis. She believes that everybody has a story to tell. “Refugee stories all have a face; sometimes it’s a father’s face, other times it’s an unaccompanied minor’s face, a single mother’s face, a teenager’s face or a young woman’s face. And those faces have names, be it Maria, Abdullah, Fatima or David.”
Joining Translators without borders
Eleni is enthusiastic about her role with TWB and wants to encourage other translators to get involved. She appreciates the recognition, understanding, and gratitude that is shown to volunteers. The experience, according to Eleni is personally rewarding and provides much more than simply an improved resumé. “The RRT volunteers are contributing to solving a real problem in a real world. But the best thing about being an RRT volunteer is that you are constantly reminded of what not giving up on your dreams looks like.”
“If you have language skills and want to help people in need, you’re most welcome in our team. TWB’s goal is to provide refugees with up-to-date information in their native language. We aim to close the language gaps. So, do not hesitate to join us and help people for whom your skills are vital. You’ll know that you’re helping people, while at the same time challenging yourself to give a good quality translation.”
As a graduate from the Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies department at the University of Macedonia, and with French and Greek heritage, Eleni loves learning new languages. She now lives in Thessaloniki, Greece, where she is soon to complete her Masters in Translation. Not surprisingly for someone fascinated by language, Eleni describes herself as an avid reader and someone who is thrilled by foreign cultures. She loves to travel, and concludes that “Each travel experience leaves a mark on my path.”
Want to volunteer?
By joining TWB, you can help modern migrants just like Eleni. Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.
By Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer