Witnesses to a struggle: Rundi translators are transforming lives

I have become someone who can joyfully ‘plant a tree under whose shade he doesn’t plan to sit.’” Céderick, translator for Translators without Borders (TWB).  

Translators improve lives by translating potentially life-saving information into ‘marginalized’ languages spoken by vulnerable individuals. Those who volunteer for Translators without Borders possess a range of experiences and skills, but they share a vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all of our translators, and we love sharing their stories.

The dedication of TWB translators means they sometimes work through unique challenges – juggling translation work with school, internet outages, and pressing deadlines. And while most translators work independently, one Burundi-based group of classmates and friends works together to deliver lifesaving translations. The team faces more challenges than most. Their east African homeland is currently experiencing a great deal of unrest, a situation which makes their work more difficult, but also more rewarding and even more inspiring.

The team works largely from English to Rundi, a Bantu language spoken by some nine million people in Burundi and surrounding countries.   There is a shortage of translators working in this language pair, so Rundi speakers generally have limited information available to them in their own language. The team is changing that situation; they are especially proud of their efforts to translate the World Health Organization’s information on protecting against Ebola.

TWB’s volunteers translate words that support and empower vulnerable people. The members of the Rundi team are no strangers to difficult circumstances: They do their life-changing work under conditions which would be unimaginable for most. Living in a country which experiences extreme poverty, the team members lack personal laptops and rent computers in order to complete projects, setting an inspiring example of dedication and selflessness.

Adelard Dolard

Dolard explains that for him, “Within the soul of my heart, I feel like I must support and help in any way I can. Because nobody was created to be harmed.

Witnessing social struggles like conflict and famine in their home country only drives the team to work harder.

While they are strong as a team, each translator brings their own story and personal motivations.

Who’s who?

The team consists of Melchisédeck Boshirwa (Melcky), Cédrick Irakoze, Adelard Ngabirano (Dolard), Pasteur Nininahazwe, Callixte Nizigama, Freddy Nkurunziza, and Misago Pontien. They are undergraduate classmates with a wide range of interests and talents, but a common dedication to language.  Pasteur, Callixte and Pontien are all passionate about using their translation skills to help others. In the same vein, Freddy and Melcky are committed to improving communication for communities struck by disaster. Céderick is a translator and interpreter who never wants to stop learning, and Dolard is passionate about youth empowerment and women’s rights.

Melchisédeck Boshirwa (Melcky)
Callixte Nizigama

“A professional haven”

The group’s expertise has grown while they’ve worked  with TWB. This is thanks to translation courses provided by TWB, and the diversity of topics tackled. These experiences have taught the group the importance of translating vital information into a language which can be understood by all.

In fact, Cédrick has changed his whole approach to translating due to the nature of the work and the encouragement of his project managers at TWB. He has found a “professional haven” in the world of translation for humanitarian organizations. He is now less distracted by deadlines and more focused on the significance of the project itself.

Cédrick Irakoze

Growth has been personal as well as professional. Cédrick tells us, “I was lucky to find such a hardworking, selfless, and giving team that cares much about others — the ones who are abandoned and forgotten in different corners of the world.” Many translators, like Céderick, relish the opportunity to serve their communities and  humanity, and do fulfilling work in the fields of translation and humanitarian support. For teammate Pasteur, the discovery that he has something of value to donate — other than money — which has the power to save lives, was a revelation.

“Volunteering with TWB has impacted me very deeply on an emotional and intellectual level. People living in refugee camps face critical situations.” Freddy Nkurunziza

Freddy Nkurunziza

To happiness and hope

While all of the tasks completed by these translators are significant, some will always stand out as especially touching.  

Cédrick, for example, was moved by a project he delivered to provide education materials to children. He says that transforming sorrow into happiness and hope through games, sports, verbal communication, and storytelling can make a difference.

The skilled translator envisions the refugee children as “Being peaceful, helpful, and sharing.” This sentiment reminded Céderick of his response to friends who ask him about his volunteer work. He tells them, “I really am making richness. Making future ministers, doctors, teachers, activists, artists, entrepreneurs, and business people is invaluable.”

For Pontien, Pasteur, Melcky, and Freddy, a project with War Child has stuck with them. The Little Ripples project enabled the translators to make a difference in the lives of Burundian infants and children in refugee camps.

Aspiring translators

Pasteur Nininahazwe

“Give what you have” is the gracious advice of Pasteur, who sometimes finds it challenging to fit his translation work in while keeping up with his studies.  Yet, staying committed to the cause “pays more than twice,” says Freddy, who loves the professional badges, appreciation, and certificates given to honor the team’s invaluable work.

Misago Pontien

Pontien reminds fellow Kató translators, and those who are considering joining, that they are change-makers with big roles to play in our communities and beyond. Melcky seconds that sentiment, highlighting the great impact that translators can have. “I have already contributed so much by helping Burundian refugees in camps away from home.” Melcky shares. “What thrilled me most is the certificate of appreciation that I got from iACT [a non-profit organization that provides humanitarian action and aid], thanks to what I did with TWB.”

Their hard work is hugely appreciated by the TWB team and all those they help, as well as partners worldwide.

To get in touch about any of the topics mentioned in this post, and to leave feedback please join the discussion here, or send an email to translators@translatorswithoutborders.org.

Join TWB’s community of Kató translators

Written by Danielle Moore, Digital Communications Intern for TWB. Photos and interview responses by Melchisédeck Boshirwa, Cédrick Irakoze, Adelard Ngabirano, Pasteur Nininahazwe, Callixte Nizigama, Freddy Nkurunziza, and Misago Pontien, Kató translators for TWB. 

The Silver Lining – Education brings hope during a refugee crisis

There is a lot of despair and pain radiating from the refugee camps in and around the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. Physical pain from disease and injury, coupled with a lack of food, are constant issues for the Rohingya refugees in the camps. The mental anguish is much greater. Loss of family to violence, loss of homes and crops, and an ongoing feeling of degradation and violation of rights – this anguish lives with every refugee, every day.

And yet, while walking through camps, meeting with responders and activists throughout Cox’s Bazar, there was also a thin yet constant thread of hope. Would it be possible, now that the refugees are relatively safe, in camps run by Bangladesh and the international community, to truly educate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children, giving them a future they could not have previously imagined?

Educating an illiterate population

The new influx of more than 600,000 refugees to Bangladesh includes a large number of school-age children. According to Save the Children over 60 percent of the new refugees are children. These numbers could increase as even more refugees are expected to cross the border by the end of the year. UNICEF estimates that more than 450,000 Rohingya children aged 4-18 years old are in need of education services. That includes those who have been in the camps for longer periods [source: Reliefweb].

Evidence indicates that a very large number of the children, as well as the adults, are illiterate. In fact, in a rapid survey conducted by the TWB team in October with Rohingya refugees, 73 percent of respondents self-reported to be illiterate. This illiteracy is limiting the children’s ability to be further educated and to demand their human rights.

Evidence also indicates that when education is made available, literacy rates increase. In fact, in the study TWB completed last month, it was clear that refugees who have been in Bangladesh longer show higher levels of literacy than those who had more recently-arrived.  While not easy to obtain, education is more readily available in the established camps than it was in Myanmar where twin restrictions against movement between villages and education above primary level severely limited access to education. When our team tested populations who have been in Cox’s Bazar since prior to August 2017, comprehension rates improved across the board.

Now, with hundreds of thousands of children together in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, is this an opportunity to offer them education and a future?

Unfortunately, though, the language of instruction will be unfamiliar to the Rohingya children. Currently, a number of organizations are looking to set up learning centers in the camps. The goal is to give the refugee children at least two hours of education a day, beginning in January. Yet the official curriculum that the government of Bangladesh has approved does not include mother tongue education, and the teachers who are being hired will teach in Bangla and Burmese, two languages that the children do not read or speak.

Why mother tongue education matters

A wealth of experience and evidence over the last 50 years has proven that children learn better when they are taught in their mother tongue language. We also know that countries do better when their children are educated well. Evidence from a project that Save the Children has implemented in Thailand focusing on mother tongue education for Rohingya children, shows that learning a second language, English or Thai, is difficult when children do not understand the language of instruction. This undermines children’s ability to participate and invest in their education, despite their motivation [source: Save the Children].

But the issues with mother tongue education for the Rohingya children are deeper, because their mother tongue, Rohingya Zuban, is largely oral. The illiterate community speaks it fluently but does not generally have a means for written communication, through their mother tongue. Interesting work is already being done to establish a written form of Rohingya Zuban. A script was developed decades ago, and has been taught within the established camps and throughout areas of Bangladesh and Malaysia. The teaching is generally ‘under the radar’ of even informal education centers, and the materials used are handwritten, as unicoding of the language, is not complete. But even so, there is a major desire among the children and adults in the established camps to learn the written form; estimates put the number who have learned some of it at 10,000. Even more encouraging is the excitement generated among the students when they do have the opportunity to learn it – there is a true sense of the empowerment and identity that learning to read their own language gives them.

This initial mother tongue education work is unknown to most international agencies setting up learning centers, and its potential is unexplored. TWB is working with these agencies, as well as local organizations, international organizations specializing in mother tongue education and hopefully, the Bangladesh government, to include mother tongue tools in the curriculum. Teaching aids in Rohingya Zuban, mobile and online tools in unicoded Rohingya Zuban, and printed Rohingya Zuban early readers would all make a difference.


Now, back home and separated from the daily grind of the response by miles and time, I have reflected on that seed of hope that is education, and started to figure out how TWB can contribute to its growth. I believe TWB can make the greatest impact, by including mother tongue teaching and learning aids into the education programs being developed for Rohingya children.

The Rohingya refugee crisis offers the potential to educate hundreds of thousands of illiterate children, eager to learn, in their mother tongue. I hope we can make it happen.

Please follow this link to support TWB’s response to the Rohingya refugee crisis

Rebecca PetrasBy Rebecca Petras, Deputy Director and Head of Innovation at Translators without Borders.

When crisis hits – communication is key

Deployed for the first time in 2015 to respond to the refugee crisis in Greece, the Translators without Borders Arabic Rapid Response Team (RRT) counts over 80 volunteers. From their homes around the world, equipped with an internet connection and a Skype account, the will to help others and language skills, these volunteers bring vital information to thousands of refugees and migrants in Greece, in a language they understand.

‘If people cannot understand each other, there will be a barrier that not only makes it difficult to communicate but also makes it difficult to trust each other’

Muhannad Al-Bayk, a graduate of and now teacher at the University of Aleppo, joined the Arabic RRT in early 2017. Since then, he has been lending his valuable translation skills to TWB partners such as RefuComm, Internews, and the British Red Cross, while juggling his studies and teaching responsibilities.

Having volunteered over 50 translation hours as part of TWB’s response to the refugee crisis in Greece, we were keen to catch up with Muhannad to find out why he decided to join TWB and what motivates him to be involved in this response. Muhannad starts by telling us, ‘I wanted to find a way to give to others who hadn’t been as lucky in life as I have. While researching how to help, I stumbled upon TWB which seemed like a perfect match for my skill set.’

Muhannad’s tasks as an Arabic RRT translator are varied. In addition to translating and editing files using TWB’s translation platform Kató, he also helps develop glossaries, format documents, and other technical tasks. His translation content has also been quite diverse – from translating articles for “News that Moves,” an online information source for refugees and migrants in Greece, to flyers to direct people affected by the Grenfell fires in London, to a helpline. Muhannad believes that these projects are truly helpful ‘because they are timely for the target audience. Being able to read about things as they happen helps people understand what is going on and makes them feel less lost and more involved in their situation.’

‘Working as a volunteer has been an invaluable experience. I’m constantly tackling new issues and learning new things. Meeting a lovely new group of professional people is a bonus. It also taught me to be more committed to timelines, since RRT work relies on fast turnaround times.’

Why language matters in a crisis

The dedicated volunteer wraps up our interview telling us, ‘It is hard to put one’s life in the hands of someone you do not even understand. Therefore, language is key during times of crisis. [Language] connects hearts and minds, it is the primary means of communication’.


Click here to read the stories of other TWB Rapid Response translators.

By Angela Eldering, TWB Volunteer 

 

Translation: hope during times of crisis

In 1922 Charoula Samara’s grandparents fled their home country and arrived as refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos. Charoula was born and raised on the same island that welcomed her grandparents. She grew up hearing about their perilous journey across the Aegean Sea, and how they arrived carrying little more than hope for a safer life. There are many similarities between her grandparents’ story and the stories of hundreds of thousands of refugees who have landed on Lesvos in the past two years.

Charoula was horrified to see such tragedy unfold on her own island, but she was inspired by the memory of her grandparents. She looked for ways she could help people who had been through a similar experience to her own family.

A Translators without Borders (TWB) post on social media gave Charoula the answer. The post called for volunteer translators to support the TWB European Refugee Response program. Having studied translation at the Ionian University on Corfu, Charoula knew she had found the right opportunity for her. Her English and Greek language skills would be valuable during the escalating crisis on Lesvos, and she could gain translation experience at the same time.

“As a junior translator, there are few opportunities to get involved in projects of the scale and significance of those managed by the TWB,” Charoula explains. She jumped at the chance to become involved. Her grandparents’ experience gave her an added incentive to make a difference.

Helping local people understand an unfamiliar and constantly changing situation.

The material she translates is varied, reflecting the complexity of the situation. On Lesvos, it has been important to make sure the local population has information in their own language too. Translating material between English and Greek, as Charoula has done, has helped local people understand an unfamiliar and constantly changing situation.

Language matters, because it gives people a clearer understanding of their position and their options.

Language empowers them to make informed decisions in times of uncertainty, when fear can dominate. Without accurate information, fear can quickly escalate to panic. Without volunteers like Charoula, TWB could not provide potentially life-saving information to people who are uncertain and afraid.

“Language defines us as humans, because it describes and explains the world around us,” Charoula observes. “When faced with the unknown, we need the situation explained to us in simple words to help us process it and act on it. When we cannot understand the language around us, we feel cut off from the world, unable to judge a situation or make informed decisions.”

The most satisfying translation she has been involved in with TWB was for an issue of In the Loop. It contained reactions from the refugees themselves, not from politicians or non-profit organizations. It gave the refugees their own voice, and provided a refreshing point of view for Charoula.

Charoula’s experience as a TWB volunteer has given her a greater understanding of the importance of those voices, and the value of providing hope. She recalls seeing two refugee girls playing in front of their tent, among hundreds of others, in the municipal garden of Mytilini. Their parents watched them lovingly. At first, that scene gave Charoula an intense feeling of helplessness.

“But then, that negative feeling was replaced by the positive power of hope; because there is nothing more innocent and hopeful than children playing without a care in the world, despite the hell they have been through.”

TWB, with the help of volunteers like Charoula, will continue to give hope to people in crisis. We’d love you to join us. Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, editor for Translators without Borders and volunteer writer 

Making sense in difficult times

Happy and carefree.

Two words many of us use to describe our childhood. Sadly, these aren’t universal descriptors of childhood. Children growing up in war-torn countries are more likely to recall early years filled with suffering and unhappiness. This is Najmeh Mojtahedpour’s experience.
Now Najmeh is using her background to help others. We spoke to her to learn more about her role as an online volunteer translator with Translators without Borders (TWB).

Najmeh tell us a little about your childhood

I was born in Esfahan, Iran in 1980. A week later, Iraqi forces invaded, leading to the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. My childhood memories center on bombing and destruction. Sadly, I remember families devastated by hunger and death, homes reduced to rubble, and people living in fear and despair.

What prompted you to seek a volunteer role helping refugees?

My background has given me a strong sense of empathy for the refugees of the 21 st century. When I see those poor people stuck in other countries, I remember my own childhood and I understand how they feel. A three-year-old boy who drowned at sea when his family was fleeing war-torn Syria was my catalyst for change. The image of Ailan Kurdi lying lifeless on a Turkish beach galvanized me into action. I was determined to find a way to help people like Ailan and his family.

How did you come to be a TWB volunteer?

Initially, I wanted to provide more hands-on aid, but as an Iranian citizen, there was no way I could travel to provide on-the-ground assistance. I shared my frustrations with a friend who was working with the Translators without Borders’ Rapid Response Team (RRT). My friend explained that the RRT is a virtual team of volunteer translators that provides translations for refugees so they have information in a language they understand. It didn’t take much to convince me that providing remote translation support was one way I could make a very real difference to the lives of refugees.

“I wish I could do more for them but for now, translation is the only thing I can do”

How do you balance work and volunteering?

One of the benefits of providing assistance online is that there is little disruption to my life. I’m based in Mashhad, Iran, and work in IT administration. By volunteering remotely, I can do my job and translate for TWB in my spare time.

Tell us a bit about what you do for TWB

I translate Rumours information sheets (prepared by TWB’s partner, Internews) into my native Farsi. This gives refugees clarity and certainty on issues that might otherwise be misrepresented through hearsay and misinformation. I also translate general media articles so that refugees have insight into relevant local media stories. Even something as simple as weather forecasts, can provide vital knowledge to refugees.

How would you describe your contribution?

I’m acutely aware of the need for accurate translation and how important it is to supply that. Having lived through a war, I can be frustrated by what I see as a lack of progress in the refugee crisis. The rational solutions to Europe’s refugee crisis have long been laid out. What is lacking is not a script, but its implementation. I need to frequently remind myself that what I’m doing is helping individuals through uncertain situations while they wait for the solutions to be enacted.

Language is essential to every aspect and interaction in our everyday lives so providing information in a language that refugees can readily understand is vital. We use language to inform people of what we feel, what we desire, and to question and understand the world around us. In a stressful situation, it’s especially important for refugees and migrants to have information available in their language, so they can make sense of the situation. My contribution ensures that refugees have access to information that makes their lives easier.

What advice would you give anyone interested in offering support?

I would advise anyone interested in offering assistance from a distance to focus on what they can do to help. Even though you are not working on-the-ground, you are actively contributing and playing an invaluable role during crisis response scenarios.

Would you like to join Najmeh as a rapid response volunteer?

Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

By Kate Murphy and Angela Eldering (www.scribinghand.com), Translators without Borders Volunteers

This is no ordinary translation; this can save lives.

FOLLOW US ON OUR JOURNEY TO SCALE UP REMOTE CRISIS RESPONSE LANGUAGE SERVICES. 

Refugees and migrants arriving in Europe need clear information they can understand at every point in their journey. They need it in order to move, to find their way through complex asylum procedures, and to keep themselves and their families safe. However, in the ever-changing, often chaotic situation that many of them endure, information can come in many forms. It can be unreliable, incomplete, in the wrong language, or just plain untrue. Crisis responders for their part face the challenge of operating in an environment where people are often mobile, under intense pressure, and unlikely to be able to communicate their needs effectively.   

As one of three teams selected by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) for support to scale up a humanitarian innovation, the TWB Words of Relief team is using this opportunity to improve how we provide remote language services to vulnerable people affected by a crisis. Join the team as they document their challenging and exciting journey to tackle the communication challenges that hinder relief efforts, by developing new tools and approaches. 

This first vlog gives a behind-the-scenes look at how remote crisis translation works, and includes demos of TWB’s translation platform and glossary app. The app, which was developed specifically with humanitarian responders and field workers in Greece in mind, is a collection of open-source glossaries in the languages of the refugee and migrant populations in Greece. The translation platform uses language technology to lend speed and consistency to efforts to relay vital information to those groups in their own language. These innovative tools open up new opportunities for communication in a crisis that is unique for the linguistic and demographic mix that exists within the host community, the responders and the people directly affected.

This video is available with subtitles in Spanish, French, Greek, German and Italian (just click the ‘CC’ button bottom right of the screen to choose your language). The video was realized with the support of Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), with the financing of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and is the first TWB vlog. Follow us on our #JourneyToScale.

Translators without Borders has developed more tools and services to support responders to communicate better in difficult crisis settings. Click here to see the TWB language fact sheets, interpreter toolkit, and more.


About Words of Relief

The Translators without Borders Words of Relief program is the first rapid response translation service aimed at improving communication between crisis-affected communities and humanitarian responders, so that life-saving and life-changing information is not lost in translation. By training translators and interpreters, translating and disseminating critical messages in crisis-inclined countries, building a spider network of translators to assist in time of need, and developing new language technology tools, TWB intends to close the language gaps that hinder critical humanitarian efforts.

The Words of Relief program has been deployed to help victims of several crises worldwide, including the Ebola emergency in West Africa and the Nepal earthquake. Rapid Response Teams in Arabic, Farsi, Greek, Kurdish and Urdu are currently providing immediate, high-quality translations for aid organizations along the refugee route in Europe.

The TWB translator community survey results are out!

Translators without Borders (TWB) recently carried out a survey of our translator community. The survey received 168 responses, and it gave some valuable insights into the experiences of volunteer translators and what motivates them as a community.

We have highlighted here five of the most interesting findings from the survey.

1. our translators are mostly motivated by helping others.

An overwhelming majority (97%) of translators said they volunteer because they like helping others and contributing to a good cause.

While career development, increased professional visibility, and interesting projects were also mentioned as some of the benefits of volunteering with TWB, our volunteer community is primarily driven by the desire to help people in need and work for humanitarian causes.

“Recognition is always nice. However, I really don’t need any more incentives. I’m motivated by something which has nothing to do with rewards.”

2. our translators are embracing technology.

Nearly 40% of respondents have had the opportunity to work on Kató, the new and improved  TWB translation platform that enables online collaboration and allows translators to use translation memory and glossary tools.

Most of our translators are familiar with Computer-Assisted Translation tools and use them in their work. This has produced some discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of translation technology.

According to our translators, the top advantages of doing work on an online platform are:

  • better quality and consistency
  • easier collaboration and sharing
  • the use of translation memory and glossaries
  • better translation workflow
survey of translator community
The advantages of Computer-Assisted Translation tools according to TWB volunteers

Some of the downsides include translators’ preference to use their own tools while working, specific technical requirements (such as using a particular browser for translation), and the need to have online connectivity to do work.

Generally TWB translators are open to trying new tools and approaches in their work and have also been very generous with providing suggestions and feedback on these tools.

3. our translators are open to collaboration on projects.

Translation is often seen as a solitary endeavor, although modern technology may be changing that. In fact, many of our volunteers expressed interest in online collaboration, citing the following reasons as the top advantages of working together as translators:

survey of translator community
The top advantages of online collaboration

4. TWB volunteers care DEEPLY about translation quality.

Many of the responses from our translators focused on ensuring good translation quality, whether through proofreading, feedback, or consistency checks.

This shows that our translators care a lot about the quality of their work and are proactively looking to improve it. In fact, over half of our translators said that receiving translation feedback and corrections from colleagues is important to them.

We recognize that comments from colleagues are particularly valuable to translators. Not only can this be a good source of specific, positive feedback (“Please keep doing what you’re doing, it’s great!”), but it also provides opportunities for growth and improvement (“Here is what you can do even better”).

We are looking for ways to provide regular feedback to our translators and will be sure to incorporate the suggestions of our volunteers about quality and collaboration into our new initiatives.

5. We heard your feedback!

Many of our translators said they appreciate recognition for their work, be it a word of thanks from the partners, visibility of how their translations are benefiting others, or, occasionally, acknowledgment in the form of recommendations or endorsements.

Recognizing this, we encourage our non-profit partners to leave feedback for translators as much as possible, and we are also looking for other ways to recognize the efforts of our volunteer translators, such as through translator appreciation initiatives and by featuring translators in our Volunteer Profiles on the TWB website.

We will continue using the feedback from this survey as we develop our translator community initiatives. It is important to us that our translators feel engaged and appreciated, and that they see Translators without Borders as a source of meaningful, interesting work.

Please stay tuned for more updates about our volunteer translator community. If you are a translator, we would encourage you to join our TWB Translator Volunteers Facebook private group, and if you would like to give us specific feedback or ask a question, you can always write to translators@translatorswithoutborders.org.

Until next time!


Apply here to become a TWB volunteer

Marina KhoninaBy Marina Khonina, Translation Quality and Community Manager

 

Celebrating Amazing Women on International Women’s Day

celebrating giti dallali on international women’s day

In honor of International Women’s day, we tell the story of Giti Dallali. Giti Dallali is providing a vital interpreting service to asylum seekers in Greece, in their language. She is one of the only female Farsi and Dari interpreters working in the refugee camps of Greece despite critical need. The semi-permanent ‘camps’ that now dot the Greek landscape can be very dangerous places for women and girls. While humanitarians have worked hard to protect women and girls, vulnerability to discrimination, trafficking, and sexual assault abound, and access to medical care and human rights consultation is spotty. This is amplified by the fact that most women do not speak Greek or English.

Originally from Iran, but living the United Kingdom for almost 25 years, Giti has been working with Translators without Borders since June of last year. In December she was deployed by Doctors of the World UK to provide interpreting services, working alongside midwives and gynecologists, to female patients seeking medical care either for themselves or for their children.

In high demand…

This incredible lady is also often sent to respond in other camps in Athens (Eliniko, Malakassa, Eskisto) where she works with general practitioners, psychologists, and social workers when there are sensitive cases or issues regarding women’s health.

Giti at work in the camp of Eskistos - a story told on International Women's Day
Giti at work in the camp of Eskistos, bridging the communication gap between an asylum seeker and a Doctors of the World UK midwife

In terms of physical strength, women and children tend to be not as strong as men, and the tough journey that they have had to endure, coupled with the poor conditions in the camps, has a greater impact on their health. Many of these women have suffered domestic abuse, both verbally and physically and oftentimes they don’t feel comfortable discussing their health issues or family problems in the presence of male interpreters. Many of them are victims of physical or sexual abuse and have hidden their pain and health issues for months while they waited for a female interpreter. Some of them will even choose to give birth in their tent because they know that there is no female interpreter or midwife available at the hospital,” Giti tells us. “I find my job quite satisfying as I feel that I can be the voice of many of these people, especially women.

“I can try to ensure their pain and sorrows are heard by the service providers. As a female interpreter who can speak a few languages, I feel that maybe I can help these women to communicate better and perhaps remove the barrier of language”

Giti has been an interpreter in the United Kingdom for ten years, working in hospitals and courts, with social workers, schools, and lawyers. She started interpreting after completing her Master’s Degree, first working with different communities and then going on to interpret for people unable to speak English.

training of translators and interpreters

Since deploying the Words of Relief crisis relief translation network in Greece and the Balkans in late 2015, Translators without Borders (TWB) has trained over 200 staff and volunteers of partner agencies on translation and interpreting in a crisis. To do this, TWB collaborates with partners such as InZone and the Language Project. To learn more please the TWB website.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Blog AuthorBy Amy Rose McGovern, Translators without Borders Director of External Affairs 

Language: One of the major obstacles faced by refugees

Tunisian researcher, Mayssa Allani insists that a cooperative approach is required when dealing with the refugee crisis in Europe. She believes that countries around the world should be united in helping refugees overcome the trauma of the war. In order to help, it is necessary to overcome one of the major obstacles faced by refugees: language.

While studying at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece Mayssa taught Arabic to European volunteers in the refugee camps so that they could communicate better with those affected by the crisis. She was shocked by the misery and sadness she found in the camps. “As a volunteer, it was sometimes very hard for me to hide my tears, and to maintain a strong face. Saying goodbye at the end of the day was so emotional,” she remembers, “the little kids were clinging to me.”

LAnguage is one of the major obstacles

But this gave her an opportunity to learn about the refugee crisis first-hand. She gained a better understanding of the humanitarian sector and was impressed by the commitment of volunteers from many different countries. She realized that language is one of the major obstacles faced by refugees.

“Language is one of the major obstacles faced by refugees. It hinders refugees trying to voice their concerns, interact and communicate with others”

In such situations, translation is essential to overcome language obstacles and to ensure effective communication, because refugees need to have access to information and news in a language they understand.

Her experience in the camps led Mayssa to volunteer with Translators without Borders (TWB). Now living back in Tunisia, she helps refugees remotely by translating from English to Arabic for the TWB Arabic Rapid Response Team. Volunteering for TWB keeps her abreast of the changing conditions at the camp and helps her feel connected to the situation. “I am happy to be part of a group of dedicated translators,” Mayssa says. “It has been a rewarding experience to provide a rapid, high-quality translation.”

Her daily activities for the RRT include translating and editing articles to help refugees get access to vital information in their language. She translates instructions about asylum-seeking registrations and procedures, and important news items. With access to clear, up-to-date information, refugees are empowered.

Refugees deserve better support, education, and care so as to lead a peaceful life and to forget about the destructive war they have experienced,” she says. “Kids should be sent to school as soon as possible and given special care. I would like to go back to the refugee camps to help the people further and to put a smile on the kids’ faces.”

Mayssa majored in English language and literature and has experience in translation with national and international organizations. She is a strong advocate for human rights and an active volunteer for several non-profit organizations.

Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

Volunteer story: Translating rumors and helping refugee children express themselves

A TWB volunteer story

Amina Hadjela is a great TWB volunteer story. She became intrigued by Translators without Borders (TWB) after discovering the organization online. The stories of response to major worldwide crises, such the Ebola epidemic in Africa, fascinated her. The more Amina read about TWB, the more she felt compelled to become involved. She describes the feeling as being like a magnet drawing her to the crisis translation projects. She immediately applied to be a volunteer translator for the Arabic Rapid Response Team (RRT).

Amina is Algerian, with a Bachelor’s degree in translation. Not content with speaking just Arabic, French and English, she has been learning Chinese since 2015. She sees it as a way of enriching her linguistic experience and hopes to eventually become involved in Mandarin translation and subtitling.

The RRT keeps her busy with daily translations of vital content for refugees such as health care information, news updates and the translation of the ‘Rumours’ fact sheet a publication by Internews which aims to correct misinformation with verified facts for those affected by the European refugee crisis.

A memorable experience

One of the most memorable translation experiences for Amina was a piece reflecting the voices of refugee children. ‘Our eyes, our future, our dreams’ was produced as a special issue of ‘In The Loop’, published by Internews (English version here). It emerged from a series of workshops designed to help Syrian and Afghan children living in refugee camps express themselves in creative ways. In it, the children share why they left their countries of origin, their experiences living in organized sites in Greece, and their dreams for the future.

I became really attached to their memories of their homeland and their dreams. I felt their voices in my head,” Amina recalls. “Sometimes, I imagine how I’d feel if I was a refugee. The answer is probably that I would feel lonely, vulnerable and hopeless even if there were some wonderful people and organizations around me.” She points out that the information translated by the RRTs doesn’t only help refugees; it provides updates about the refugee crisis in multiple languages to anyone who is interested.

Amina reminds us that Nelson Mandela once said ’If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in HIS language, that goes to his heart.’ “TWB definitely speaks to the hearts of refugees,” Amina comments.

“If you have language skills and want to help people in need, you’re most welcome in our team and there are teams for other languages too”

TWB’s goal is to provide people with up-to-date information in a language they can understand and in a format they can access. We aim to close the language gaps. So, do not hesitate to join us and help people for whom your skills are vital.”

Amina has Bachelor’s degree in Translation from Mentouri University of Constantine, Algeria. Since graduating she has worked as a freelance translator for official translation offices in Algeria.

want to volunteer?

Do you want to create your own volunteer story? Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer