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.
By Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer