Valérie travels the world and translates

Translators improve lives by translating potentially lifesaving information into languages spoken by vulnerable individuals. Those who volunteer as part of the Translators without Borders (TWB) Community have a range of experiences and skills. They share our vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all our translators, and we love sharing their stories.

Valérie Thirkettle is a multi-talented translator who has worked with TWB since 2018 and has donated almost 550,000 words of life-saving information. Her dedication and motivation to take on new projects and the care she puts into her translations make it an absolute pleasure to collaborate. Valérie is a lawyer who spent the majority of her career working for a prestigious intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space. Recently, she retired to pursue her passion for translation.

Valérie travels and translates
“How I feel when I sit down to face a big revision task” – Valérie.

A flexible working life 

An avid traveler who divides her time between the Netherlands and South Africa, she enjoys the flexibility of TWB’s internet-based system. It gives her the chance to enjoy her other pleasures, studying literary translation, spending time with family and friends, golfing and enjoying nature, particularly in her beloved Africa. All the while, wherever she goes she can feed what she calls her “translation addiction.”

Valérie in Africa
Valérie enjoys the natural surroundings of Africa.

“I was attracted by TWB’s technology focus. I discovered how much language matters in humanitarian settings, so I hope my contribution can help people. And that it can improve the advocacy efforts of the organizations I translate for.”

Her ability to infuse her multi-sector knowledge into her translation work allows her to work on a number of different projects. “I am a trained lawyer and I have worked in international legal subjects and HR subjects. I like to make myself useful with the skills I have and contribute to the causes that resonate with me, and on a volunteer basis.” 

Valerie keeps in contact with TWB’s Language Services Team by email. She is celebrated as a central, fun member of the community. The team recalls sharing many laughs with Valerie. With her varied experience, Valérie has seen the funny side of translation and mistranslation. She told us a story about a translation she once reviewed in which  she noticed the section to sign and “date” the form mistakenly read “rendez vous d’amour.” “I loved it,” laughed Valerie, “filling in forms suddenly turned into something really exciting!”

Education for everyone

One of her favorite projects with TWB involved the revision and final linguistic sign-off of the Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) Network’s How-to Guide to Collective Communication and Community Engagement. This is essential for teaching better communication strategies on the ground. It helps inform people about their rights and situations in languages they understand. 

Translators can often become emotionally involved in a project. When working with Street Child, for instance, Valérie says, 

“I felt a strong resonance with the task, and, like with a good novel, the end came too early!” 

Children in Bangladesh
Children learning in school, Bangladesh.

In fact, projects that assist young people tend to stand out for Valérie. Her time working with Think Equal also left an impactful and memorable mark. Think Equal has developed an early years education program for social and emotional learning. It was a large project in which Valérie took care of the entire revision. It included revising French versions of the program, an extensive set of books, lesson plans, and teaching materials. “The size and spread of this project made it complex, but an opportunity to develop new organizational skills for my translations.” 

Overall, her translation experience has taught Valérie to appreciate the varied skills of other translators. She comments on how they build on one another’s strengths to deliver great work. She’s become increasingly involved in revising tasks and has embarked on qualifications in revising and proofreading. “My work with TWB gives me a great opportunity for continuous learning.”

One of her tips for other Kató translators is to “pay attention to the glossaries and be as consistent as possible with the terminology you use.” Valérie points out that you’re able to ask project managers for feedback throughout the process. “And of course, keep claiming more tasks, the humanitarian sector needs all the language help it can get!” 

Get involved with the TWB translator community.

Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer for Translators without Borders. Interview responses by Valérie Thirkettle, Translator for Translators without Borders.

Humanitarian work close to home: Irina Nosova 

Translators improve lives by translating potentially lifesaving information into languages spoken by vulnerable individuals. Those who volunteer as part of the Translators without Borders (TWB) Community have a range of experiences and skills. They share our vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all our translators, and we love sharing their stories.

Shared philosophies

Irina’s philosophy fits right in with that of Translators without Borders: “In our information-packed society, it is essential to maintain access to vital information for everybody. So, my biggest motivation is helping people by delivering information to interested parties,” says Irina, former lawyer now turned English-Russian translator. Since joining as a volunteer translator in 2016, Irina has translated and revised a total of 110,220 words into Russian, one of our top ten most frequently requested languages.

Irina Nosova English Russian translator
Irina Nosova, translator

The projects touch on all sorts of information, including healthcare. Often, information and research in one language benefit speakers of another language – but it needs to be accurate and it needs to be available. So we asked about a particular project which made vital information available in Irina’s own country, in Russian, her mother-tongue. When tasked with translating an important anti-tuberculosis study she found it to be one of her most difficult projects to date. The translator translated study protocol and presentations to find out more, before later reading news articles and discovering the reality of the tuberculosis situation in Russia.

“I was shocked to find how high the burden of tuberculosis is in my country!” – Irina

Finding practical solutions

Although Irina focuses on the importance of language in Russia, she is also hopeful about how sharing information in many languages can spread helpful and life-changing information. “I hope that the study of novel tuberculosis treatment will speed up the registration of new drugs which are vital for successful treatment,” she told TWB. 

As well as more academic pieces, Irina finds translating personal stories equally important. One of her projects involved translating patients’ stories for partner non-profit EURORDIS – Rare Diseases Europe. 

“I realized that stories shared by patients with rare diseases and their families could inform people in similar situations in Russia about how to deal with those diseases.” – Irina 

Tapping into your skillset

Irina’s desire to help as a volunteer translator has helped her tap into personal and professional skills. “Volunteering improved my time management: I have to calculate and allocate the time I can spend to complete the tasks before the deadline, alongside my other daily tasks. Before launching my own business, I worked as a lawyer and I volunteered with TWB at night, after work. Now, I can be more flexible and am able to contribute more time.”

Her advice for other TWB Community members is to constantly improve your skills, learn new terminology, and check your quality of translation. “Doing translation in Kató – TWB’s online translation environment – requires the same quality approach as any other project: the highest possible. So, before claiming the new task make sure you understand the topic and do your own research to provide the best possible translation.” It helps you understand the context and importance of the situation you are translating about – like in the case of Irina’s tuberculosis project. When Irina dug deeper into the topic she was translating about, she discovered a personal interest in medical translation and later, clinical research. Her projects opened new doors: “Volunteering with TWB improved my resourcefulness and research skills and pushed me to explore new horizons in translation, take new courses, and dig deeper.” 

Join our translator community.

Written by Gloria Malone and Danielle Moore, Communications Officers for Translators without Borders. Interview responses by Irina Nosova.

An Interview with Liudmila, a Russian translator connecting the world through language

Translators improve lives by translating potentially lifesaving information into often ‘marginalized’ languages spoken by vulnerable individuals. Those who volunteer for Translators without Borders (TWB) have a range of experience and skills and share a vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all our translators, and we love sharing their stories.

Translation is not the only skill that helps TWB translators connect people through language. A deep understanding of culture, people, and precision can also help nonprofit organizations communicate with people affected by crisis or poverty.

“I am a translator to the marrow of my bones, and a perpetual learner — every translation for me is a discovery.” Liudmila Tomanek, Translator for TWB.

Take, for example, Russian translator Liudmila Tomanek. When she is not freelancing and running her translation company, this linguist with a penchant for perfection translates information for people in need, on a diverse range of topics. To date, she has donated over 225,000 words translated from English into her native Russian. Through her work with TWB, she uses and develops her communication skills and cultural understanding to help people understand vital information, no matter what language they speak.

Working in the real world

As a multilingual translator and interpreter working from English, French, Spanish, and Italian into Russian, Liudmila understandably has a range of experience and cultural knowledge. She draws on this in projects with TWB, and is comfortable working in diverse subject areas. Particular interests lie in journalism, economics, and medical translation.

During her time with TWB, Liudmila has used her deep cultural understanding to translate information on topics ranging from human rights to poverty and infectious diseases. In doing so, she has supported nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross, Internews, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Donating words

The very fact that TWB exists and flourishes, she believes, demonstrates that quality skills can be incredibly valuable when it comes to helping a good cause.Book, spectacles, glasses

With her translated words, she reaches out to those who would otherwise lack the access to information they need in a language and format they understand. Liudmila compares her volunteering with TWB to doctors working for Doctors without Borders: professionals using their skills to treat people where the need is greatest. She explains, “professional translators who volunteer for TWB provide information where it is needed and in the language it is needed.” Projects with TWB have opened Liudmila’s eyes to the wide-ranging need for professional translation: from the families of children born with a cleft lip and palate, to natural disaster management.

It helps me to see the world through a different set of spectacles. It removes a curtain from some aspects of life that people prefer not to think or talk about. – Liudmila

Liudmila lists her projects with Operation Smile International among her favorites. “They really do amazing things. They go around the world and give children born with a cleft lip or palate a chance to smile and live a full life. I cry every time I translate their newsletter,” she says.

Befriending technology

And sometimes translating leads to new skills. As a self-confessed old-fashioned type, she was once wary of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools. However, with Kató, TWB’s online translation platform, Liudmila was converted. Though a professional eye still is still needed to ensure context and quality, this translator now works faster and more consistently with Kató  – and gladly so.

When helping the world communicate, we’re thankful that Liudmila uses skills both old and new.

 

Want to use your language skills for good? Apply today.

To get in touch about any of the topics mentioned in this post, please join the discussion or email [email protected]

 

Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer for Translators without Borders. Interview responses by Liudmila Tomanek, Translator for Translators without Borders. 

How I found meaning in my career

Volunteering with TWB is a rewarding and enriching experience.

Translators improve lives by translating potentially lifesaving information into often ‘marginalized’ languages spoken by vulnerable individuals. Those who volunteer for Translators without Borders (TWB) have a range of experience and skills and share a vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all our translators, and we love sharing their stories.

Iris Translator

Iris Soliman sets out to prove that when the cause matters to you, giving back comes naturally. Since early 2018, this translator’s enthusiasm for TWB’s work has shone through in her personal and professional life. Her support for the cause extends far beyond the translation work itself, as Iris has thrown herself into TWB’s Kató Community forum and social media platforms. Driving TWB’s vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers is a dedicated community of translators. They all volunteer because of a shared set of values: they believe in the need to make information available in languages that people understand. Iris embodies the energy and passion shared by many TWB translators.

Advancing a career in translation

The 35-year-old Belgian translator of Egyptian descent works in English, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, and French. Iris began her professional translation career five years ago. And in just one year with TWB, she has participated in over 100 projects and translated over 200,000 words. Those words have helped individuals supported by a plethora of organizations including the NEAR network, Concern Worldwide, and Humanity and Inclusion.

Humanity and Inclusion is where Iris began her volunteering career in the Brussels office and in the field, 10 years prior to discovering TWB. More recently, she has been able to achieve a personal goal of translating a text from Arabic to French and participating in numerous meaningful projects.

Iris is touched by the knowledge that her work with TWB makes a real and discernible impact on lives. A fondly remembered translation was for a smartphone app called Miniila, by Missing Children Europe. The app provides migrant children with information about their rights and the services available to them on their arrival in Europe. In a separate project, she learned that important vaccine stocks in Syria had to be destroyed because they were in a location occupied by Daesh. For Iris, these translations are personal reminders of her lucky situation, while others sometimes struggle to meet basic needs.

Iris Translator

“Now I hope I’ll help all kinds of people – elderly, grownups or children – particularly those fleeing conflict, starvation or natural disasters.”


As an engaged member of the TWB community, Iris is thankful for the knowledge-sharing, the friendly environment and the opportunity to help others while gaining humanitarian experience.

Fitting TWB volunteering into a busy life.

Though she is busy, Iris finds time to dedicate to her volunteer work. For her it is about so much more than doing a job: she is part of a thriving community. While still volunteering for TWB regularly, Iris is completing various online courses and preparing for the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi Chinese proficiency examination. 

Iris hopes that her energetic approach to the translator community will encourage other translators to join. For anyone who is curious, she offers words of advice: “You can always ask the project managers questions (they are more than simply available). And don’t worry if you need to double check, make corrections, or have your work revised. I was like you less than a year ago!” This is all part of her endless desire to make a difference and grow professionally.

“Iris has contributed a substantial number of words on TWB’s translation platform, Kató. But what really distinguishes her is the great enthusiasm she is showing in the Kató Community” Paulina Abzieher, Translation Project Manager for TWB.

If you, too, share our values, apply to join TWB’s translator community today.

To get in touch about any of the topics mentioned in this post, please join the discussion or email [email protected]

Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer for Translators without Borders. Interview responses by Iris Soliman, Translator for Translators without Borders. Cover photo by Karim Ani.

Beyond translation: Maysa’s far-reaching contribution

Translators improve lives by translating potentially lifesaving information into often ‘marginalized’ languages spoken by vulnerable individuals. Those who volunteer for Translators without Borders (TWB) have a range of experience and skills and share a vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all our translators, and we love sharing their stories.

This month’s featured translator works in two of the most widespread languages in the world: English is an official language across 59 countries, while Modern Standard Arabic is the lingua franca in 26 countries. Arabic and its many varieties are the mother tongue of 310 million people in the Arab world, parts of Latin America, and Western Europe.

Maysa Orabi

For Maysa, joining TWB made sense: “I rushed to submit my application. I realized that I could finally give a helping hand using what I do best and love the most: translation.”

Maysa Orabi is an invaluable member of the TWB community thanks to her enviable translation skills. By translating into two of TWB’s most common language pairs, English to Arabic and Arabic to English she directly impacts the lives of many. Not only has Maysa translated more than 100,000 words for TWB, but she has also reviewed almost 200 translation tests as a trusted quality reviewer. This enables TWB to recruit new translators, build our language community, and maintain high translation quality.

Telling Human Stories

It was only after joining TWB that Maysa came to realize the magnitude of what she was giving. Maysa is interested in human nature, and our desire for communication and understanding of our world. Yet often, that understanding is only possible thanks to our access to knowledge in a language we understand – and not everyone has that advantage.

Maysa has a deep desire to understand the world, and the hardships faced by many. But she is especially invested in the stories of people living through difficult times. She wants to help them tell their stories:

“They want to have a voice and they need to know they are being heard.”

Translators have chosen to help amplify the voices of others, so Maysa says that translators must be diligent and put their heart and soul into what they translate. With this in mind, she guides the translators she works with whenever she revises their work. Over the last three years, she has reviewed the quality of an additional 50,000 words of translation tests on top of her own translation tasks.

Ferry to Athens,
“Because your words are as important as a warm blanket for a poor child on a cold night.” Maysa Orabi. Photo by Karim Ani.

“As a Jordanian and an Arab, not to mention a human, I was shaken by the events the Arab world witnessed in recent years. I wanted to be present and helpful in any way possible. When vulnerable, displaced, and deprived people cry for help, their suffering is doubled if they cannot communicate with those who want to help them. I want to know there is something I can do.” Maysa Orabi.

And so, Maysa decided to put her efforts, knowledge, and experience into translating for TWB, to prove that language matters.

Still learning

Maysa explains that TWB has given her the chance to gain and develop her skills fast. Her projects remain in the back of her mind while she is working on other translations, and they occupy much of her spare time. The extra experience in translation and lessons in efficiency have honed her professional abilities.

The projects she handles for TWB have also developed her awareness of the world. In particular, she has worked on medical content for Wikipedia and articles for Internews. Those Internews articles touched on the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers in Greece and other European countries. They showed her the difficulties faced by people trying to settle in a safe place: tumultuous legal procedures and regulations, uncertain futures, separation from family, an inability to work, and limited access to a proper residence. Her work involved translating questions and concerns, in which she learned of the troubled, inescapable realities of so many people. Maysa describes how those communications revealed the urgency of the situation for many, and the hard time the world is having to contain the ravages of wars.

“A traveler I am, and a navigator, and every day I discover a new region within my soul.” Khalil Gibran

The translating and reviewing work that Maysa does is enormous: it deals with big languages, big issues, and makes a big difference. But its effect is immediate, even life-changing, on a personal level. Individuals and families have been given access to vital information that they might not have had, thanks to Maysa and our community of TWB translators.

“TWB has increased my love for translation and my sense of the significance of what I do; that I translate for a cause.” Maysa Orabi.

Click here to join TWB’s community of translators.

To get in touch about any of the topics mentioned in this post, please join the discussion or email [email protected].

Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer for TWB, with interview responses by Maysa Orabi, Kató translator for TWB. 

United by language: Tigrinya translators use their skills to help others

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

Two of our top translators of Tigrinya, a language spoken by approximately seven million people, deserve special recognition for the work they did in 2018. Our featured translators, Kidane Haile and Kalayu Menasbo, have their roots in Eritrea and Ethiopia respectively. But they are united by a common language and their tireless desire to use their skills to support those in need.

Tigrinya is a Semitic language, belonging to the same language family as Amharic, Hebrew, Arabic, and Maltese. It is widely spoken in Eritrea and in northern Ethiopia, and by immigrant communities in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and parts of Europe.

Eritrea Landscape, Ghinda
Ghinda, Eritrea.

Missing Children Europe  

Tigrinya was one of the most important marginalized languages at TWB in 2018, primarily because of our partners’ work with refugees. For example, Missing Children Europe works with refugee youth in Europe who are unaccompanied; Tigrinya is one of the most important languages for this work. Kalayu and Kidane both contributed to the Missing Children Europe work, giving hope to people who have been forced from home due to poverty, hunger, persecution, discrimination, civil war, or unemployment. Young people and displaced or unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable in such situations. They need to be able to report problems and to know their rights and responsibilities. They cannot do any of that without information in a language they understand.

Kalayu knows how important it is to ensure communication does not become a barrier to humanitarians providing safety. Language mediators are crucial. So the documents provided by our Tigrinya translators can be life-changing.

Kidane, too, sees it as a privilege to work with an organization like Missing Children Europe: to know he is supporting young children, and that the work he does is valuable.

A translator’s journey: taking refuge and delivering safety with words

Kidane now works from his home office in Buffalo, New York translating from English to Tigrinya. The dedicated volunteer prides himself on communication and a desire to help others, hence his enthusiasm for working with TWB. Since joining in April 2018, Kidane has completed 60 tasks, amounting to 32,000 words.

“At one time in my life, I was a refugee. So, I understand what it is like to be in an unfamiliar country, facing a language barrier and other challenges. When I work with people in that situation, I understand what they are going through and it makes me happy to help them,” Kidane Haile, Translator

In 2010, Kidane arrived in the United States with refugee status. For four years he worked part-time, studied full-time, and worked on his English fluency. It was then that he realized his knowledge of Tigrinya and English opened up an opportunity to work and help the community simultaneously. Now he works as a full-time interpreter, though he never forgets where his journey began:

“I often think about making life easier for people who start in a new country and need help communicating and understanding their new situation, the way I was years ago.”

Kalayu, the second of our spotlighted Tigrinya translators, works in the same language pair from his home in Ethiopia. This busy volunteer has translated almost 30,000 words across 17 tasks since he joined TWB in October 2018. He continually aims to serve and provide for others through improved communications.

Kalayu
Kalayu Menasbo, Translator

And his dedication to the mission is evident: Kalayu often works late into the night to complete translation tasks, without the convenience of a home laptop.

In fact, the keen reader and ex-radio journalist wears many charitable hats: he also works for World Vision Ethiopia, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children and families. In his various roles, he creates safe, protected environments by translating vital information into local languages.

Beyond TWB

Kidane’s experience with TWB has expanded his written translation skills and helped him to take on work outside of his primary field of interpretation.

Kalayu explains how working with TWB helped him understand the impact a translation can make:

“I have no money to support people, but I have the skill of translation – a skill that can support those who need it in their daily life.” This revelation has made Kalayu a committed language professional.

Photo by Kalayu. Sunset over the Adwa mountains, Ethiopia.

A translation task may take you a day, but for those who need it, it may serve as a life continuing catalyst,” Kalayu Menasbo.

To get in touch about any of the topics mentioned in this post, please join the discussion or email [email protected].

If you know a second language, and you too want to help build a world where knowledge knows no language barriers, apply here to become a translator for TWB

Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer for TWB, with interview responses by Kidane Haile and Kalayu Menasbo, Kató translators for TWB. 

Prison Yoga and Moving Smiles – it all matters to a TWB translator

“You are always learning from your colleagues and sometimes you are asked for advice too.” Patricia Cassoni, translator for Translators without Borders (TWB).  

Patricia CassoniTranslators improve the lives of countless individuals, allowing them to access information and knowledge in their own language. Those who volunteer for Translators without Borders share a vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers.

TWB’s virtual community of translators possesses a range of experiences. Kató, the translation platform used by TWB, gives volunteers the opportunity to develop their skills and professional networks while working on impactful projects for nonprofit organizations. Those organizations trust us to provide accurate translations, often in short timeframes. We are grateful for all of our volunteers, and we love sharing their stories.  

Part of the community

Today, the spotlight falls on Patricia Cassoni, one of our most active Kató translators, who has been volunteering with us since 2012. Working from Portuguese to Spanish and English to Spanish, she has completed nearly 300 tasks, amounting to over 360,000 words. Patricia is excited to be part of the community of translators. “I like to meet people through the platform,” she told us, “because, more or less, we have the same intentions and interests of living in a better and fairer world.

Prison Yoga Project

Patricia’s varied and meaningful work has aided the efforts of organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), International Organization for Migration, and Operation Smile. With Operation Smile, Patricia has translated potentially lifesaving information for professionals, families, and children around the world. This helps ensure that those born with cleft conditions receive the level of care that Operation Smile aims to provide, no matter what language they speak.

Patricia’s work has helped to improve hundreds if not thousands of lives. She feels that translating allows her to develop her motivation for helping people.

“It keeps me in permanent contact with the real world,” she says. “As a translator, it is very rewarding to use my knowledge to help those who need it.”

Prison yoga project

Patricia has worked on projects you might never have imagined, using her translation skills to shape lives in every sense of the word. One project that is particularly dear to her is a book translation for the Prison Yoga Project, an organization that works to bring yoga and mindfulness to American prisons. The nonprofit organization trains yoga instructors, produces instructional materials, and teaches classes in detention and rehabilitation centers. It also provides support programs for released inmates, with the ultimate goal of reducing their likelihood of reoffending.

Prison Yoga ProjectPrison Yoga Project

Within TWB’s community of Kató translators, Patricia is both mentor and student, sharing her knowledge and skills with colleagues, and also benefiting from their experiences too. 

“Belonging to TWB’s community of Kató translators is very interesting,” she recounts. “Once, a judicial translator from California contacted me and asked my opinion about her work. It was funny because I had been a judicial translator for fifteen years and this girl did not know it.” Patricia is an excellent example of how participating in the TWB’s community can not only benefit volunteer translators but how it can also make the world feel like a smaller, less divided place.

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 [email protected].

To join TWB’s community of Kató translators, please apply here.

 

Photos by Robert Sturman, robertsturmanstudio.com, for the Prison Yoga Project. 

Written by Danielle Moore, Digital Communications Intern for TWB, with interview responses by Patricia Cassoni, Kató translator for TWB.

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

5 Top Tips: Volunteering for Busy People

Living in London, raising four children and working as an English to French freelance translator can get super busy!  I have always been highly aware that there are people on this earth who are in desperate need of help, so I am determined to contribute as a volunteer even if my personal and work commitments can be demanding. Having translated over six hundred thousand words for Translators without Borders in my spare time, I have picked up a few techniques to successful volunteering while juggling a busy schedule.

Here are my 5 top tips:

1. Consider your skills. When I realized that speaking two languages fluently could help other people improve their health and quality of life, I knew that volunteering as a translator was the most valuable skill I could offer.

2. Plan ahead. I plan my week so that I frequently have a few hours free for volunteer tasks. Setting aside an allocated time, helps volunteering become a routine as any other part of my schedule.

Calendar 3. Think of this as a learning opportunity. I usually translate medical, health, and IT focused texts, as I have a lot of experience of this from my work as a freelance translator. However, translating for a non-profit can be very different, making it an opportunity to learn and to develop your skills as a translator in thematic areas that are new to you.

4. Remember your motivation. Helping others has been my dream from a young age. Volunteering helps me to do that. Keep your motivation fresh in your mind, and you will always have time for volunteering.

5. Prioritize your commitment to volunteering. Volunteering for me is as important a part of my life as earning money or taking care of my family. We all manage to find time to watch a film or to play a game. If being a volunteer is important to you, then put it high on your list of priorities.

To sign up as a volunteer with Translators without Borders, click here.

Volunteer TranslatorBy Lamia Ishak, Translators without Borders volunteer translator

Lamia has been a TWB volunteer since 2013, and in that time, she has translated over 600,000 words for non-profit organizations.

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