On the ground in Mozambique: helping survivors of Cyclone Idai get the answers they need in their own languages

Days in Beira, Mozambique are long and humid. The city and its surroundings are still reeling from the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai. Five weeks on, I see people seeking a sense of normality and routine: women and men walking on their way to work, children playing soccer on the street, families having barbecues on the weekend. Their resilience is astounding and yet the uncertainty about how to move forward makes the situation harder to cope with for many.

Credit: Andrew Lind / IOM

At one of the temporary accommodation sites in Beira, TWB’s assessment team and I met some of the people whose houses and livelihoods have been washed away. They patiently answered our survey, but they themselves had too many unanswered questions. Many were confused about the aid available; some had still no idea about the fate of loved ones; others wanted to go back but wondered what conditions were like where they came from.

Without the ability to get answers, I fear people might feel utterly abandoned. Without trusted sources of accurate, timely, and consistent information, rumors and misinformation can exacerbate the crisis. This can lead people to make poor decisions, or make them vulnerable to violence, extortion, and abuse.

The challenge is that people need the right information in the right language, right now. Nobody said it was easy, but if we are serious about our humanitarian commitments to effectiveness and accountability, it needs to be done.

That is why TWB is working with other humanitarian organizations to ensure a two-way conversation with affected people, especially the many that do not speak Portuguese. In the hardest hit provinces, the main local languages spoken and understood include Ndau, Nyanja, Lomwe, and Sena. One of our focuses has been mobilizing translators with the right language skills so that we can support making information available in local languages.

This is crucial work that is inspiring and humbling at the same time. Many of the translators we are working with have been directly impacted by Cyclone Idai. Gustavo, one of our volunteer translators, reminded me about this when we first met.

Gustavo is a high school teacher of English who has been translating critical information into and from Sena. Sitting at a desk in his classroom that still reeked of damp, he explained that people here are no strangers to natural disasters. Yet, a lack of information ahead of Cyclone Idai meant that few were prepared for its devastating impact. “The next day [after the cyclone] we could not recognize where we were. It was like there had been a war or a bomb which had destroyed everything: houses were gone; roads were cut; trees were down; there was no electricity or phone and internet connections,” he said.

Gustavo opened his home to host some of his neighbors and relatives who lost all their belongings. And when he received an email from TWB asking for his availability to help, he said “yes” right away. “I took the invitation as an opportunity to assist those in need with written or oral information in their own language. This is one of the best things I can do to help my community get back on its feet.”

A crisis like a cyclone, by its nature, is a traumatic event. But talking with Gustavo I am reminded about the powerful thing that is meaningful communication. Communicating with people about the situation and answering their questions can be critical. Helping people to understand where they can get help and how they can help themselves improves their psychological resilience and their ability to recover. Doing so in local languages is key to ensuring people understand information and can act on it to rebuild their lives.

There is no quick fix that will address all of people’s questions. However, I know that working with local translators is needed to come at the issue using the right languages. Together with our team, I intend to keep doing so.

As of 30 April, our team of volunteer translators has translated over 70,000 words into relevant local languages. Thanks to their support, we are filling information gaps on issues such as hygiene, health, shelter, safety, and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. If you would like further information about our language support services in Mozambique, you can contact us at mozambique@translatorswithoutborders.org.

This project is funded by the H2H Fund, a funding mechanism for H2H Network members supported by UK aid from the UK government.

Written by Mia Marzotto, Senior Advocacy Officer for Translators without Borders

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 translators@translatorswithoutborders.org

 

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

From teacher to translator: meet Sybil

Translators improve lives by translating potentially lifesaving information into often ‘marginalized’ languages spoken by vulnerable individuals. Those who volunteer for Translators without Borders (TWB) bring 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.

This month, we are discovering how Sybil’s experience as a teacher makes her an invaluable humanitarian translator. From her home in Massachusetts, USA, she translates vital information, working from French into English. While we often talk about translating from ‘bigger’ languages like English into less commercial local languages, Sybil makes a difference in the lives of thousands by translating into her native English. Since 2011, she has completed almost a hundred tasks for TWB, providing over 200,000 words to nonprofit organizations and the people they support.

“Thanks to my experience in the classroom, I was already very familiar with a lot of the vocabulary and the context of many translation tasks.”

Natural progression: a freelance career

Sybil’s journey with TWB began seven years ago when the just-retired teacher found herself in search of a second career. As a newcomer to the world of translation, she appreciated the short tasks and generous deadlines offered by her first projects. Through feedback and collaboration, she learned how to work with translation project managers, accept assignments, meet deadlines, and continuously improve her translation work.

“My first published work as a translator was through TWB, in collaboration with other linguists.”

To build her skills further, Sybil completed a French and English Certificate in Translation Studies through New York University’s online program. This academic pursuit, coupled with her continued progression and practice with TWB, has allowed her to effectively build a new career after retirement.

As she built her skills, she relished the challenge, taking on more proofreading and revision tasks on top of her translation work. “This year has been particularly challenging in that I have been tasked with several transcription and subtitling projects.”

These projects have taken Sybil beyond translation: she’s transcribed from French to English, edited a French transcript, and synched English subtitles to a film.

“Without a doubt, working with TWB and obtaining a French and English Certificate in Translation Studies have been the two major influences shaping my freelance career.”

Serving communities across the globe

Throughout her time as a TWB volunteer, Sybil has translated documents from all over the world. She’s focused particularly on supporting communities in Africa, a continent which holds a personal interest for her. As a junior at college and a budding traveler, she spent a year abroad in Nigeria, and later served for the US Peace Corps in Francophone Cameroon. There she worked for two years as a teacher of English as a second language (ESL).

Now, serving TWB, she supports our mission by assisting individuals and populations who need the services of a French to English translator. So, while this is not her first time aiding communities in countries including Nigeria and Cameroon with her language skills, Sybil stays up-to-date with global humanitarian issues she has seen first-hand, through the challenging and meaningful tasks she encounters with TWB. And the TWB team certainly appreciates her know-how; Dace, TWB’s Translation Emergency Coordinator is quick to praise Sybil for being “ever supportive and responsive.”

“This photo was taken on Monday 13th January 1969 when I was serving in the United States Peace Corps, teaching ESL at the ‘middle’ school (Collège d”Enseignment Général de Sangmélima). The students, principal, and I are standing in front of the school draped with the green, red, and yellow flag of Cameroon. We were awaiting the arrival of President Ahdhijo who was visiting Sangmélima.”

Over 8,000 miles away in Bangladesh, another community benefits from Sybil’s expertise. In one personally significant project, she worked on guidelines for teaching English to Rohingya children who had recently arrived in Bangladesh. Her quick work enabled the syllabus to be immediately implemented and helped the community’s children continue their education in their temporary campsites. As a professional educator, she was able to collaborate with colleagues to produce lesson plans, syllabi, and curricula for English literature, ESL, and French language and literature classes.

While her now extensive experience in humanitarian and development translation means Sybil must have many poignant stories to tell, she describes how a few are forever ingrained in her memory. Take, for example, addressing the mental and physical health of people in Haiti immediately after the devastating earthquake in 2010. On another occasion, an in-depth assignment explained how women in an African country have to travel extraordinary distances, often by foot, for difficult operations, and why they are not always successful. These might seem like difficult topics, but in putting such important information into another language, this translator is truly bridging a gap of human experience, and sharing information that has the power to shape humanitarian approaches for the better.

A student in Haiti.

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

Apply here to become a volunteer translator for TWB, and help serve communities across the globe.

 

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

 

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

#LanguageMatters. So Does Technology.

Improving access to information in the right languages for the world’s poorest, most vulnerable individuals is the core mission of Translators without Borders (TWB). Often, however, there are too few translators or interpreters available, especially during times of crisis when impacted populations and humanitarian responders do not speak the same language.

To alleviate the dearth of translators and interpreters, TWB invests in the skills of our 26,000 strong community of language professionals. We also invest in state-of-the-art tools and technology that enable us to serve many kinds of humanitarian needs.

Translators Guinea Language Technology.
TWB-trained translators in Guinea.

The right combination of skills and technology helps our translators deliver high-quality, accurate information to partner organizations such as Doctors without Borders and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, often under chaotic, time-sensitive conditions. Our volunteers work to industry standards, building marketable skills that may lead to paying jobs.

Over the long-term, the data we’re creating will play a key role in bringing more underserved languages online and into the digital age. Continue reading “#LanguageMatters. So Does Technology.”

Tickled by Trim, Tint or Tattoo for TWB

In the years I have been with Translators without Borders, I have witnessed and been involved in many exceptional fundraisers. On Our Bikes (by TextPartner) has always been a favorite, raising funds for our training efforts in Africa, and the Localization World hike organized by KantanMT in 2016 was a huge success. And then came Trim, Tint or Tattoo for TWB, created by Euro-Com, designed by Andrew Hickson and held at the Globalization and Localization Association’s GALA 2017 in Amsterdam. Its success was not just impressive, but also loads of fun.

Trim, Tint or Tattoo for TWB

The goal of Trim, Tint or Tattoo for TWB was to raise much-needed funds for Translators without Borders’ humanitarian work around the world. Translators without Borders (TWB) works to close critical language gaps that hinder humanitarian efforts worldwide by supporting the work of hundreds of organizations in the areas of crisis relief, health and education. TWB is a non-profit organization registered in the US and with an operations center in Kenya. It was founded in 1993 to provide volunteer translations to non-profit organizations. Funds from the fundraiser are used specifically to expand the community of translators supporting the effort, offer more training in more hard-to-source languages, and support the organization’s development of a more robust incentive program for the community.

Tattoo for TWB
TWB’s Executive Director, Aimee Ansari showing support for TWB at GALA 2017

The ingredients to a successful fundraiser

By all measures, Trim, Tint or Tattoo for TWB had all the right ingredients for a successful fundraiser. Andrew designed a fun event in which there were many ways to give: participants could simply buy an orange (the color of TWB and host-country, the Netherlands!) wristband to wear during the event, or have a beautiful braid put into his or her hair, as was done by closing keynote speaker, Istvan Lenygel. But there were so many other ways as well, including getting hair colored, getting henna tattoos and, for the facial-hair group, shaving of the beard. Andrew spearheaded an awareness campaign before the event to get people committed to various activities and cleverly promoted those who had committed ahead of time on a simple yet elegant website for the fundraiser.

Feathers for TWB   

That pre-work would have made the event successful unto itself. But it was the excitement that it generated during the event that truly put it over the top, starting with the opening announcement from GALA Board Chair, Jesper Sandberg, that if half of the conference participants contributed with a wristband or more, he would, in fact, get his hair colored. That was enough to get everyone to the Euro-Com table for a donation!

Waxing for TWB
Joseph mentally prepares himself

Then there was Joseph Kubovsky of Memsource. Clean shaven, he had committed to wax his legs in order to participate. But the ‘buzz’ about his smooth legs was not enough – he then allowed anyone who donated to rip the wax paper from his legs as he grimaced.  To top it off, he then had a tattoo placed on the back of his baby soft legs. Brilliant.

And then it was time for trimming. Five men and all their hairy glory, took center stage as professional trimmers shaved off all their hard-earned facial hair. It was all captured on Facebook Live! As one remarked: “Eighteen   years gone – but it is all for a good cause!

Trim, Tint or Tattoo for TWB was a great success. It has raised more than $4,000 and is poised to add to that number at EUATC in Berlin this week. But more importantly, it brought the community together to celebrate translation, interpreting and the difference the language industry makes in the world. Thanks so much everyone: Language Matters.

If you are interested in running a fundraiser for TWB, please download our handy fundraising pack.

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

On International Translation Day, we celebrate translators

International translation day

Today we celebrate International Translation Day, a day to recognize the incredible contribution that translators make to connecting worlds and bringing people closer to the information that they need. TWB thanks the thousands of translators who support and collaborate with Translators without Borders every day, helping us build a world where knowledge knows no language barriers.


celebrating one of our many translators

Since TWB started to respond to the European refugee crisis in November 2015, volunteer translators have been supporting our efforts through translation. Based in Nicosia, Cyprus, Maria Roussou is a member of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) for the Greek language, and she translates from English into Greek. Besides Arabic and Farsi, TWB also provides Greek translations of daily news and information on the refugee crisis for residents of Greece.

With Greece at the forefront of the crisis, Maria was strongly motivated to help. In her words, “The refugee crisis is yet another international disaster. I cannot begin to think what all these people are going through, physically and emotionally. Helping the refugees should not be considered as volunteering, but as an obligation.” Maria believes that information in their native language can greatly empower refugees, who are already in such a vulnerable position, and are facing numerous challenges and obstacles.

Joining the TWB translator team

Maria first heard about TWB through a course she took on translation business development. “A tutor mentioned the remarkable work of TWB, both on a humanitarian and on a professional level. I submitted my application
form
the same day!”
 At that time, the refugee crisis had already begun
and Maria immediately received a request to join a Rapid Response Team: “I said yes without hesitating, not even for a second: I was offering to help and they needed my help.”

From that moment, Maria remembers that she was guided through the process of working on an RRT: “I received instant and abundant help from the other volunteers. I felt a member of the team right away.” She and her team mostly translate news articles relating to the refugee crisis such as the situation at the borders and the way each country and the EU are reacting to the crisis. According to Maria, there is excellent collaboration within the team, which works quickly and efficiently. Even so, urgency should not compromise the quality of the translation: “As soon as you pick up a document or a part of it, you are committed to deliver it as soon as possible, with the best possible quality,” she explains.

“Translation is my passion and knowing that it can help people in need, makes it twice the pleasure”

Maria spends about an hour a day volunteering for TWB, depending on the workload of the team: “I try to make myself available… I know that helping even a little goes a long way. Besides, I really enjoy it.” 

Happy International Translation Day to all of our translators around the world!

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

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Border volunteer

“Language can open doors to exhausted and hopeless people”

In September 2015, millions of people around the world were appalled at the image of a police officer carrying the body of two-year-old Alan Kurdi across a Turkish beach. The boy, originally from Syria, had drowned when a boat his family was travelling in from Turkey to Greece overturned, only minutes into their journey. A distraught father’s attempt to move his family from an untenable situation highlighted the urgent reality of the refugee crisis.

For many people, that photograph and the story behind it represented a turning point in their attitude to the emerging refugee crisis.

language opens doors

It was certainly a turning point for Roya Khoshnevis, who related strongly to the image. At the time, her son was a similar age to Alan and she was deeply distressed by the image and the tragic situation that it represented.

“The death of that baby boy was a big shock for me and I couldn’t stop crying when I heard the news. So I tried to find a way to help these people and their children. I wanted to help the refugees, and I found no better way than Translators without Borders, which let me support through their (Rapid Response Translation) team.”

As part of our RRT team of volunteers, Roya spends up to two hours a day translating material from English to her native Farsi. The translations are then made available to refugees after they arrive in Europe. Roya believes that language opens doors for refugees.

“Many of these refugees are ordinary people who are not able to speak any other language except their mother tongue,” she says. As translators we must help them to see the world through their language,”

As translators we must help them to see the world through their language. Language can open doors to exhausted and hopeless people

Asked about her most satisfying translation experiences, Roya notes that any translation that does not carry bad news is satisfying. She loves helping people receive the news that their families were rescued at sea, or reunited with loved ones.

Roya has lived her whole life in Mashhad, Iran. She studied English translation and works as an English teacher and freelance translator. She works a lot with children and young adults, and has a particular interest in translating children’s stories.

volunteering from a distance

As well as working as a teacher, translator and RRT volunteer, Roya is kept extra busy as the mother of a three-year-old boy. Because the RRT work is done via an online platform, volunteers contribute remotely, and at a time that best suits them. With a life as full as Roya’s, this gives important flexibility. Somehow, Roya still finds time to travel, watch movies and read books that help her to learn about different cultures and countries. Fascinated by languages, Roya studies a new one whenever she has a chance.

Do you want to help open doors? Apply to join the TWB Rapid Response Team on the TWB website.

Blog Author By Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

“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