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. 

A translation worth a million words  

translator
Suzanne Assénat

In 2017, this team of four translators donated over 1.2 million words to the work of Translators without Borders (TWB).

In recognition of their invaluable contribution in mentoring new French translators, the French translation team (Barbara Pissane, Suzanne Assénat, Gladis Audi and Ode Laforge) won the 2018 Translators without Borders Access to Knowledge Award for Empowerment. Their work has allowed TWB to significantly increase language capacity and guarantee translation quality in one of the organization’s most requested language pairs (French to English). You would be hard-pressed to find a group of more deserving and yet modest individuals with such impressive achievements to their names. Having put into words countless life-changing messages, and contributed to the stories of thousands of people in crisis and need, it is inevitable that these women have some tales of their own to tell.

They are Empowerment Award-winning translators, but they are also so much more.

The team is made up of four witty volunteers, translators-interpreters, writers and mothers, each with their own quirks and attributes. Gladis describes herself as a hunger-relief activist and amateur rosarian who likes to explore nuances and innovate solutions; Ode is a teacher and communicator at heart; Barbara has a fondness for early music and tall ships events; Suzanne appreciates her family time and has a keen interest in the music of words and music itself.

translator Gladis
Gladis Audi

 With so many roles, it is a wonder these women smashed the one-million-word mark, but their motivations have been clear from the start.

All four translators acknowledge that their work with TWB allows them to contribute to social change and global awareness. For Gladis, “Spreading knowledge by breaking language barriers is very significant in itself.” Their motivations stem from a desire to feel “closer to people in distress, people living in countries shattered by wars, poverty, climate disasters or disease outbreaks,” says Ode. This work is her way to “express solidarity with them.”

The team tells the most moving anecdotes.

When asked to recount a significant project with TWB, Suzanne proudly remembered a time in which she mentored translation students in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She was impressed by the students’ efforts. They did their work with “little computing hardware, connectivity problems, [while living with the threat of] armed conflict,” but they “kept at it and delivered pretty good translations.”

 translator Ode
Ode Laforge

Ode has a favorite memory that is close to her heart. “How could I ever forget this little book I translated for children in Africa, in which the main character, a little girl living with HIV, was talking about her everyday life?” Ode asks, as she reflects on the human connection that volunteering can foster. “She managed to lead a relatively happy life, taking the drugs she needed, eating healthy food prepared by her loving grandma, avoiding everything that could negatively interfere with her health, fighting difficult moments to stay healthy, playing with other children, and expressing her wish to become a scientist when she grew up, to find a cure for this terrible disease. Despite the seriousness of the topic, this little story was heartwarming and optimistic, but I was deeply moved while translating it.”

Not only has their support left a mark on the lives of thousands, but volunteering for TWB has made a difference to them, too.

This volunteer experience provided the backdrop for a new friendship, which began on the translation platform, between Ode and another TWB volunteer translator, Nadia Gabriel. She describes how they built a friendship “exchanging views on how to best render a tricky sentence or a difficult passage.” Since then, they have met in person and have kept in touch ever since. Ode is so grateful that her work with TWB has given her the opportunity to get to know such lovely friends. 

Finally, these productive translators shared some words of advice.

Gladis advocates balance and encourages aspiring volunteer translators to “work extra hard, have lots of fun, believe in yourself and in the team. A little can go a long way.”

Barbara Pissane translator
Barbara Pissane

For Barbara, it is all about the work ethic of keeping going and finding your work gratifying, You will be proud of the help you give to people and you will grow more confident. Moreover, you will have the opportunity to work with people who are always extremely committed!”

Suzanne recognizes the difficulty of finding the balance when translating as a volunteer and doing it for a living. Her advice is never to feel guilty for not doing enough, and never stay away indefinitely. “Come again, however (in)frequently you can! There’s an analogy to make with blood donations: You don’t and can’t do that very often, but every little drop (well, pouch, whatever) helps make a difference.”

Would you like to share in these life-changing experiences as a TWB volunteer translator? Apply now to get translating.

Written by Danielle Moore, Digital Communications Intern for TWB, with interview responses by Gladis Audi, Ode Laforge, Barbara Pissane and Suzanne Assénat, TWB Volunteer Translators

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 

We can be heroes!

“It is very nice being a small part of TWB’s humanitarian efforts worldwide.”

The skills that Jacek Sierakowski, MD,  brings to Translators without Borders (TWB) are invaluable. Since he first became involved with TWB in 2010 as an English to French translator, he has contributed over 500,000 words of translation – an extraordinary achievement and a significant contribution to TWB’s mission to increase access to information to more vulnerable people in the world. In the true spirit of volunteerism, Jacek has generously and freely lent his medical and language expertise to TWB since 2010. In early 2017, he was awarded the TWB Access to Knowledge ‘Empowerment’ Award in recognition of his significant contribution to training new translators in Guinea.

A special affection for Africa

Jacek explains that he grew up in Africa and had always intended to return to work there when he finished his medical training. This didn’t happen, but he maintained his deep interest in the continent and has been able to contribute his medical expertise through his translation work with TWB, which has been remarkably varied.  

One significant project was during the Ebola crisis in West Africa (2014 – 15). Dr. Sierakowski’s work translating research about the Ebola vaccine, and educational material about the virus for the World Health Organization, was a crucial contribution to the response. Given the dearth of information in local languages in West Africa at the time of the outbreak when more than 11,000 people died, and nearly 29,000 were infected, getting information translated into French which could then be translated into local languages, was very important to the response. Jacek has also translated information on yellow fever, the plague, and other diseases, in addition to presentations about medical care in Haiti, and medical advice for African health workers and parents.  

The mentoring work Jacek did for the training of translators in Guinea was particularly significant for him. The new translators were mentored by professional translators as they translated valuable health information for frontline health care workers in Guinea. Jacek found it very satisfying to be able to share his experiences with younger generations.  Jacek explains, “I am approaching the end of my career, but I want to stay active and involved. Working with TWB seems like a good, stress-free, and useful option. I’m impressed by the organization’s rapid responses to humanitarian emergencies. The project managers are friendly and helpful, and there is no competition. It is a pleasant change from my day job.

Meaningful work

Living in Belgium and holding a medical license, Jacek started translating in 1975 as a young doctor when he had ‘few patients and a lot of free time.’ He says that he progressively self-proclaimed himself a medical translator-writer (translating into and writing in French), and has been doing this full-time since 2002.

When I asked Jacek about how, as a translator, he thinks language plays a role in humanitarian response, he answered thoughtfully: “Thinking about it, translators play a not insignificant role in humanitarian aid, whether it is translating into a traditionally more well-resourced  language, like French, to foster wider understanding, or into a local language to reach out to the vast majority of patients and care providers. Unfortunately, my Swahili, Kikongo, and Lingala are rusty, but I can pass the baton to my French-speaking colleagues on the ground in countries where they speak those languages.”

On being a volunteer

By any measure, the amount of volunteering Jacek has provided to TWB is enormous and it sets him as one of the highest-performing TWB translators in terms of words translated. On that note, he had some advice for other volunteers: “If I were to offer advice to other volunteers on how to balance a day job and volunteer work so as to make volunteering sustainable and successful, I would say that, except in urgent situations, TWB deadlines are reasonable, comfortable and flexible; it is not a problem to combine the two.” And, of course, there are the lighter moments: “It may sound silly; one of my fondest memories came at a TWB video conference on the HEAT Guinea project when I could hear roosters crowing in the background. It vividly reminded me of my youth in Africa!

Thanks, Jacek, for your dedication to the TWB mission; your work has benefitted countless people.


Click here to become a TWB volunteer translator.

Blog AuthorBy Sarah Powell, Translators without Borders volunteer

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

“To lend a hand for the greater good, to help for no reward, and all with no grand show of gratitude”

This is the story of a woman who wanted to lend a hand for a greater good. Salam Khalifeh completed an English literature degree and a post-graduate diploma in translation and interpreting at Damascus University while civil war ravaged her home country of Syria, Salam. Despite the situation, she excelled in both courses.

Attending classes every day was very dangerous”, she explained. “Studying at home was also a struggle because of the lack of electricity and internet access. Considering the situation, I know that I have achieved the greatest results possible. I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

Joining the TWB European Refugee Crisis project

The ongoing war has made it very difficult for Salam to find work. Luckily, a Facebook post introduced her to Translators without Borders (TWB). She immediately applied to join TWB’s European Refugee Crisis project as a volunteer translator. Her impressive qualifications ensured she was accepted, and she now also volunteers as a translator and interpreter with the United Nations.

Salam is also involved with a project to strengthen Syria’s future. The project aims to help young Syrians strengthen their emotional, social and intellectual life skills so they can continue with their basic education. The Syrian crisis is in its fifth year, so building a foundation for the country’s future is important. It gives much-needed hope and resilience. As she points out, “No one should be deprived of a good education, whatever the circumstances.”

lend a hand and make a difference

Salam explains that volunteering gives her the sense of purpose she was searching for after graduating and has made translation seem much more than a profession:

Translation has become a tool to make a difference

I felt like it was the most noble thing to do: to lend a hand for the greater good, to help for no reward, and all with no grand show of gratitude.

TWB unites people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal.” As a Syrian who has lived through the crisis in her country, perhaps Salam understands this goal better than most people.

We used to feel safe and happy, but not anymore. Syrians are risking their lives to feel safe again. For some people, this means losing their lives at sea. For the fortunate ones who get somewhere safe, it’s still hard to build a life from nothing. But Europeans have been very kind opening their doors for us, and we cannot thank them enough.

Language barriers can prevent humanitarian assistance being provided effectively. Salam believes that translation is the most important tool for managing the current refugee crisis.

TWB has been at the frontline, translating information for those involved in the humanitarian crisis. I wanted to be part of that.

The importance of volunteers

TWB could not stay at that frontline without the generosity of volunteers like Salam. The passion and selflessness of those volunteers allows TWB to continue to improve refugees’ lives. And as Salam explains, the volunteers gain a lot from the work too: “I couldn’t help the hungry or the injured. But going to sleep everyday knowing that I’m helping people get the better life they deserve is enough for me 

Do you want to lend a hand to refugees in crisis areas? Join TWB as a volunteer on the TWB website.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

Responding to a crisis from home

 Volunteer translatorsSelima ben Chagra

“I think the world has a lot more to offer to refugees than it is currently giving them”

 

With a deep personal interest in human rights, politics and foreign languages, Selima ben Chagra is a freelance translator and interpreter (French-English and Arabic-English) focused on translating and transcreating advertisements and commercials.

When she heard about TWB’s European Refugee Crisis RESPONSE project…

… Selina signed up straight away. “I didn’t really think it through,” she confesses. “I just wanted to help.” “Being a refugee is disorienting enough, but when you add in the feeling of helplessness that comes from an inability to communicate, facilitating understanding becomes even more important,” she told us. 

Selina earned an MA in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2015. Her experience as a translator and interpreter with the United Nations Development Program’s Regional Bureau for Arab States inspired Selima to work in the humanitarian field.  Since then her career has reflected her strong interest in international development and cooperation, and a passion for communication. Selina has spent the past fourteen years studying and working in the corporate, non-profit and inter-governmental sectors, including as a teacher of English, French and Arabic.


Volunteer translatorRawan Gharib

“Language offers both the charm of communication and the curse of ambiguity”

 

On an almost-daily basis, from her home in Giza in Egypt, Rawan translates media coverage of the European refugee crisis and its consequences into her native Arabic. She also provides people affected by the crisis with information on issues of more immediate relevance. In addition to things like weather forecasts, she translates information sheets that aim to clearly distinguish between truth and hearsay, and helps raise awareness of the risks of abuse by people smugglers, detention, or forced repatriation.

Rawan Gharib is a freelance translator and a creative writer, with a self-described “obsessive” hobby of music archiving. In addition to TWB, she also volunteers with Global Voices’ Lingua Project. While studying Hispanic Language and Literature at Cairo University, Rawan developed a passion for translation, and literature analysis and criticism. Her decision to get involved with TWB was intuitive, and her rationale is simple. “I’m a native Arabic speaker, a translator and a human; I felt it was my role to play.”

Rawan notes, “Language tends to be even more tricky and confusing in situations of fear or pressure. …Successful communication in such situations provides additional security, understanding and acceptance; which any refugee or immigrant needs.” 


VolunteerING

Selima and Rawan have dedicated over 50 hours each of volunteering time to Translators without Borders. If you would like to apply to become a Rapid Response translator, click here.

The TWB volunteer who translated 500k words

The first to translate 500k words

“When I try to explain to people what’s going on in Nord-Kivu or Haiti, they often ask me how do I know about it. Thanks to TWB, I have become more interested in situations that are not widely reported in the news.”

In March 2016, Eric Ragu became the first Translators without Borders (TWB) volunteer translator to reach the 500,000 translated words milestone. We caught up with Eric to hear about how he did it.

It means a lot! It means hundreds of hours of hard work, research and sometimes struggle to get to the right words.” Eric explained, when asked about his incredible achievement. “Now, my next target is to go beyond the 1 million words limit. I hope that I will get more people engaged with TWB, because currently some people seem surprised when I explain to them that I have translated 500,000 words for a NGO.”

The beginning

In 2011, Eric completed an MA in Translation Sciences from the University of Heidelberg after graduating with a BA in Applied Foreign Languages in France. He now works as a freelance translator from English and German into French with his partner, Annika Rathjens, in their common translation bureau Я & R Language Services near Hamburg in Germany. His passions are newspaper cartoons and non-mainstream progressive and ecology-oriented newspapers. Eric would like to open an alternative newspaper kiosk and organize a free library service as well as debates and cultural events to share this passion with others.

I found out about TWB in an ad on ProZ.com some years ago. At that time, I didn’t have much money but I wanted to get engaged and make a difference. I was fascinated by the idea and variety of topics covered by TWB so I decided to offer my expertise to organizations, big and small, that are striving to make this world a better place to live in.

A win-win situation

Eric feels proud to play a small part in fighting against diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and leprosy, something his grandmother, a member of the French Association against Leprosy Foundation, Raoul Follereau, was also very passionate about. Translating for TWB has also been a learning experience for Eric: “I have become more sensitized to problems happening in regions that don’t get much media attention, or that affect people whose voice you do not hear in mainstream news channels. When I try to explain to people what’s going on in Nord-Kivu or Haiti, they often ask me how do I know about it. Thanks to TWB, I am interested in situations that are not widely reported in the news.”

Some people seem disinterested when I tell them about what I do, but I am confident in what I am doing,” said Eric, with a final quote: “Gandhi once said: At the beginning, they ignore you, then they laugh at you and finally, they imitate you.” And that’s how he became the first volunteer to translate 500k words.

Volunteer

Do you want to join Eric as a volunteer translator? Sign up at the TWB website.

Blog AuthorBy Francesca Debernardis, former Translators without Borders Communications Intern

A voice for both sides

Volunteer interview: Farideh colthart

More than 1 million migrants came to Europe in 2015, mostly from Syria but also Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Eritrea, amongst other countries. The majority arrived by sea with many experiencing traumatic journeys. Reception centers struggled to cope with the linguistic barriers, complicating efforts to help those seeking a safe haven. To help address this problem, Translators without Borders (TWB) is playing a significant role in the provision of translators and interpreters one of whom is Farideh Colthart, a native Farsi speaker with a professional background as an osteopath. Farideh’s medical expertise and legal knowledge mean that she has an invaluable skillset and can act as a link between asylum seekers and aid workers.

Helping refugees understand

Farideh is a regular visitor to Greece’s refugee camps in and around Athens. She explains, “Asylum seekers can be disorientated by an alien environment. They don’t understand the local language and are confused about how things work. Many cannot read or write, which makes things even more difficult. This can also be said for communication with people who speak dialects that Farsi- and Dari- speakers cannot understand. In these cases we have to seek help from others to interpret for us.

My work is with asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iran,” she says, “aiding them to understand the asylum-seeking process. This work is immensely satisfying – particularly when I can see how I am helping make a difference. One initiative in which I was involved has proven particularly successful. This involved the design of a leaflet with a map of Athens on one side and key links on the other such as food or clothing points, showers, and medical services. The map had used words but also symbols for those who cannot read. On a subsequent visit to Athens I was able to see how helpful this was to new arrivals. It was so rewarding!

A voice for both sides

Born in Tehran and educated in the UK, Farideh empathizes with those parachuted into a very different cultural environment. Since qualifying as an interpreter she has devoted more and more time to helping asylum seekers. She has worked for TWB since 2015 when she was introduced to the organization through a colleague. Meanwhile, regular work for the UK Home Office, local councils and other agencies means that she travels around the country to support Afghans and Iranians who already have refugee status.

“This work is immensely satisfying – particularly when I can see how I am helping to make a difference.”

Through her work, Farideh has noticed many Afghan women struggling with bringing up their children in a westernized society when their lives at home still reflect a patriarchal culture. She said it can lead to family conflicts, feelings of loss of control and social alienation. Farideh explains that she seeks to help them with their day-to-day needs, whether related to housing, children’s education or health. “I also help to run a support group for women for the Refugee Council. This encourages integration through social activities. Through my work with councils and especially with TWB, every day I see the crucially important role of communication in improving people’s lives and life chances. Language matters and I can be a voice for both sides: those who need help and those who seek to help them.”

Blog AuthorBy Sarah Powell, Translators without Borders volunteer 

Making a difference to those affected by crisis

Volunteer translatorBashir Baqi

“The sense that people are genuinely helped by my translation makes me happy”

For more than 11 years, Bashir Baqi has translated a wide variety of texts between English and his native Farsi — from home appliance operating manuals, technical texts on philosophy, architecture, and psychology, to user interfaces, games, and Wikipedia pages. Bashir is also a freelance proof-reader and loves walking – whether by the ocean or through remote jungles.

A desire to help others

For the last few months, Bashir has donated up to twenty hours each week to the TWB European Refugee Crisis response project. He is driven by a desire to help other humans in the best way he can: giving them information in a language they understand. “The sense that people are genuinely helped by my translations makes me happy, and I wish I could do more,” he said. “Being able to do it as a volunteer, without egotism or obligation, gives me a positive feeling, and I would surely encourage other translators to try it too.”  

Bashir holds a Masters of Arts in Translation Studies from Iran’s Birjand University and a diploma in English from the Iran Language Institute. His clients have included the Iranian Ministry of Science, the Iranian police department, and various publishing companies.


volunteer profileOmid Xadem

 “I could see the pain of those who couldn’t communicate”

Omid Xadem, a Farsi-Dari-Tajik Persian linguist and researcher, is a member of the TWB Rapid Response Team in Europe. The current refugee situation is particularly personal for him. Omid traveled across Turkey for two months and kept seeing the same picture: refugee children working in shops, but unable to communicate. “In Konya, a city that is hosting a great number of Syrian refugees, I saw a little girl selling some handkerchiefs and other trinkets. She had nowhere to go, she didn’t seem to belong to anyone and she only spoke Arabic. I could see that she wanted help and to keep her dignity by working. And it really moved me,” relates Omid.

practical TranslatiONS

Omid joined TWB when the organization started looking for Farsi speakers for its Words of Relief program. With rich experience in translating and interpreting, Omid is working with the team on voice-over recordings, radio messages, written texts, reviews, and quality assurance. Materials that the team produces have very practical uses: updating refugees on the situation at the borders or about any impending complications, such as ferry strikes, informing them how to register and directing them to the right people – if they need a doctor or have lost their luggage, for example. Omid explains his work very simply: “lots of people on the ground are also volunteers. We are trying to make it easier for them to communicate with the refugees.”


INTERESTED IN VolunteerING

Bashir and Omid have dedicated over 50 hours each of volunteering time to Translators without Borders. If you would like to apply to become a Rapid Response translator, click here.