Alaa Amro is Palestinian. She has grown up among Palestinian refugees and the aid workers that support and help them.* Alaa has a deep empathy for people displaced by conflict and is strongly driven to support them.
In 2016, Alaa came across the Translators without Borders (TWB) website, where she learned that she could develop her skills through volunteering. So she became a member of TWB’s European refugee crisis Rapid Response Team (RRT), translating and editing articles from English into Arabic.
As a linguist, Alaa understands that communication barriers add to the chaos faced by displaced people. “Most of the refugees who are coming from Syria speak Arabic language and [few of them] know English.” Alaa believes that having information in a language they understand is essential to refugees, empowering them to feel more in control of their own future.
“At any time of day there are a lot of articles that need to be translated,” says Alaa, “and I have free time to help.” She has translated articles about the refugee crisis from international media outlets, in addition to practical information such as weather reports and directions to key locations.
remote translation platform
TWB’s remote translation platform is a useful tool for her as a translator. “It is easy to work with the RRT because I can do the translations directly [online].” So although Alaa lives far from the European refugees she is helping, she can still support them. The most satisfying translations, she says, have been the Rumors” responses which TWB translates on behalf of partner Internews. This involves translating objective, informed responses to rumors that aid workers hear during their daily activities on the migration route. Internews publishes and distributes responses in several languages. Correcting misconceptions and providing accurate information for refugees is an important part of reassuring them and reducing the stress that they suffer. Alaa also translates local, European and international media articles into Arabic, giving refugees access to a wider range of news and opinions.
“A lot of refugees panic because they have been displaced so it is very important for them to understand directions to places they need to go for help, the weather forecast and other practical information”
I have to help
Alaa hopes that the translations she contributes can help to reduce that sense of panic by providing practical information in a language familiar to the refugees.
“I know that many people are helping refugees, and Translator without Borders gives me the chance to help too. Moreover, I am a Palestinian girl who is familiar with refugee suffering. I believe that… I have to help.”
Currently a sociology student at Bethlehem University in the West Bank, Alaa is trying to improve her language and translation skills so that she can participate in more youth activities promoting peace, human rights and tolerance of difference.
* Some five million Palestinians are registered to receive support from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which operates 58 camps in the region.
By Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer