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.
By Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer