Hanan Ben Nafa wishes she had learned about Translators without Borders years ago. “I’ve always been interested in translation, but I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t think twice about it once the opportunity came along.” Now, she spends 60 minutes working for TWB each day.
volunteering 60 minutes per day
As a member of the TWB Rapid Response Translation Team, Hanan now spends around an hour each day translating and editing crisis response content from English to Arabic.
Volunteering with TWB is instantly rewarding for Hanan, she says, knowing that many refugees will be helped by the information that she translates. The most satisfying work, she feels, has been short texts that give detailed instructions to refugees on specific issues such as where to find their registration number or where their full-registration appointments will be held.
“Such information is very basic,” Hanan says, “yet it’s crucial and needs to be correct so that the refugees feel that their case is progressing. In such situations, I am sure that our help is going to have an instant impact on someone’s well-being.”
Having the opportunity to help others is exciting for Hanan, but she is also enthusiastic about what she gains from it personally. She believes that she has become a better translator and editor, and also feels more aware of the refugee situation.
“Before, I honestly did not follow news related to refugees very closely,” she confesses. “The articles we work on are usually not found on mainstream news portals, so I have the chance to read updates about the refugee crisis and what is being done to address it. Now I’m more informed and have more empathy.”
In 2009, Hanan moved from Libya to the United Kingdom, where she is currently completing a PhD in Sociolinguistics. When she first arrived in England, her English language skills were, as she says, “adequate”, but she struggled a lot with the regional accent. Even though now she is fluent in English, Hanan still faltered recently when she was a patient in the Accident and Emergency unit of her local hospital. She realized how stress can affect one’s ability to communicate clearly, and found herself wondering how a patient who does not speak the local language might feel in such a situation.
“Being in hospital made me realise that there is nothing luxurious about providing refugees with information in their first language. They need it to be able to make informed decisions about their lives”
Hanan knows that her occasional frustrations with English are different to the frustration a refugee might feel when they cannot communicate with an asylum officer, for example.
“While my frustration was triggered by a need for integration, theirs is triggered by a need for survival,” she says. “I cannot imagine how refugees feel, waiting in front of closed doors and borders with no acknowledgement of their right for a peaceful life. The last thing they should be facing is more distress because of a lack of correct information that could be easily solved with some collaboration and patience.“
Want to volunteer?
Do you want to join Hanan for 60 minutes – or just any minute – translating for TWB? Apply for a position in our volunteer translator community here.
By Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer