This month, Translators without Borders passed the 22 million word mark. Collectively, we have donated 22 million words of professional translation to 384 charities including Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health, Good Planet, FairStart and Action Against Hunger.
I think this contribution to humanitarian work is more than enough to make all three thousand of us happy and so proud of the work we do. It is certainly enough for me to feel like my life has a meaning larger than myself.
But the truth is that donating words is only one part of what Translators without Borders is doing today.
Besides supporting humanitarian aid, Translators without Borders is changing the face of how we communicate with people in a disaster, and how we take down barriers to education for the poor in the developing world.
Translation saved many lives in the Haitian disaster in 2010, yet translation was neglected in disasters that were less well known. When the next deadly earthquake hit, this time in Pakistan, people who sent messages for help in Urdu were not rescued because there was no translation to make their messages understandable to the first responders.
We at Translators without Borders are determined that this will never happen again. In the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan struck, we started working with the UN coordinating organization, UN-OCHA, to raise awareness among the first responders of how life-saving messages could be lost for lack of translation. In the end, our Cebuano, Tagalog and Waray-Waray speaking volunteers were able to guide rescue teams to the people who needed help.
Besides helping in actual disasters, we are also working to lessen the impact of disasters before they occur. As of today, we have translated disaster risk-reduction messages from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) into 19 world languages.
Another way to lessen the impact of disasters is through education. In the early days of the Ebola epidemic, we started to raise awareness of the need to communicate with the affected people in their own languages. It has taken some time, but our translations are now helping people in West Africa to understand how to prevent Ebola and what to do if someone close to them catches it.
One of my goals is for our work to help the most people possible. With Wikipedia, I believe we truly are bringing education to millions. Starting with the 100 most important medical articles on Wikipedia, we have been working with medical doctors, medical students, a project coordinator and an international team of translators to get critical information into over 100 languages. What makes this project truly revolutionary is that this high quality medical content will be available for free via simple mobile phones to empower people in the developing world with the health information they need to protect themselves and their families.
In the four short years since the idea behind Traducteurs sans frontières became Translators without Borders, we’ve accomplished a lot. Already we’re up to 21,800,000 words donated. And this is just the beginning!