Join our appeal to “Meet me in my language.” This International Volunteer Day, we invite you to volunteer, share or fundraise.
“Meet me in my language” is our campaign to listen to people who speak marginalized languages and enable everyone to get vital information in their language.
Whoever you are, whatever language you speak, you can help people access essential resources and tools in their language. We know we can navigate the world more easily in a language we understand. Now, we can share that privilege with people who speak a marginalized language. Whether you volunteer, share or fundraise, you can help:
build communications solutions;
advocate for humanitarians to listen better;
and give people who provide vital health, protection and information services ways to engage in the right languages.
So we can make a bigger impact together.
There are eight billion of us in this world.
Four billion people don’t have access to the essential digital communications tools we benefit from every day. It’s time to act. We can make the digital world more inclusive if we meet more people in the languages they speak. By supporting our campaign you will help amplify the voices of the world’s most marginalized people. Help us ensure people are at the center of conversations that affect them, and nobody’s voice goes unheard. Facing a natural disaster, someone who doesn’t read might need advice delivered visually, or via audio. Older people might only trust doctors who speak their language. And someone in a rural community may want to ask questions in their mother language with a voice-enabled solution.
Small actions make big change
The money we raise will improve our community’s online tools so we can reach more people. We will build more accessible language technology solutions, like chatbots for marginalized language speakers. Together we can scale up and create communications channels that include more people in important conversations that concern us all.
By sharing our message with your friends, or running your own fundraiser, you can support this important work.
Here are 5 easy ways to take action today:
1. Join the community – volunteer
Share your language skills for good. With every word you donate, you will help us reach more people. Join the TWB Community to help people get vital information and be heard, whatever language they speak. Thank you for being part of the solution!
When people have the tools they need, when we can get the answers we’re looking for, and really understand and engage in conversations, we’re empowered. We can make informed decisions, protect ourselves and thrive.
Read what our community members have to say about making an impact in their communities:
“TWB has given me the opportunity to give back to society the gifts life has given to me! During my time with the organization, I learnt a lot about different projects, met excellent and lovely people from the TWB team and fellow translators, improved my professional skills and was made to feel that I belong to a community that shares my values.
It is also very rewarding to know that every day, somewhere, somebody is benefiting from my effort, my knowledge, and my work.
The ever-growing importance of communications in the current world makes the work and commitment of CLEAR Global and the TWB Community indispensable.”
Patricia, TWB Community member
“I was happy to see there were organizations that worked with languages and translation. But what intrigued me the most was that TWB was accessible to ANYONE, no matter what background they were from, no ‘formal experience’ or ‘study in a relevant field’ were required”
Sifat, TWB Community member
“At TWB and CLEAR Global, I expect that there will always be a space for new visions to crystalize, new goals to be set, new resources to be provided and new tools to be developed. And this is exactly what today’s world, and it’s never-ending issues – even crises, requires.”
– Hiba, TWB Community member
Our work makes a difference.
However you choose to take action this holiday season, thank you from us and every person we reach thanks to your contribution. When we come together, our community, our supporters and sponsors around the world can make a big impact.
Your words, and your actions, have the power to change lives.
Imagine being forced from your home because of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. Seeking safety is dangerous. Especially when you find yourself somewhere new, when you don’t speak the language of the people around you, let alone the aid workers trying to help you. You are vulnerable to scammers and traffickers. You can’t ask the questions you want to ask, and you can’t get the information you need. That’s the story of people in all corners of the world: the story we’re telling today through the lens of our community members.
Refugees, migrants and forcibly displaced people deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard. Vulnerable people face some of the most difficult situations imaginable. Marginalized at the edges of society, too often their needs and concerns go unmet. Together, we can change that.
How can we show solidarity with refugees?
When we put people first, when we prioritize access to vital services, resources and information, we can better support their wellbeing, health, safety and education. When we do so in the languages people speak, their worlds, which have already been turned upside down, become a little fairer. They get to know their rights, they can make informed decisions, their opportunities grow, and they can participate in dialogue that matters to them.
Our members bring diverse experiences to the TWB community, of resilience, of overcoming difficult journeys, of integrating into new communities, and understanding their identities. Many have been displaced from their homes, and still find time to dedicate to translating, reviewing and recording voice-overs so they can help people elsewhere. We want to share their voices with you, and start a conversation. This is part of our movement to listen to marginalized voices everywhere, whatever language they speak. Learn more about our Four Billion Conversations movement.
Read these community member stories
Lilav Mohamad Alarashi and Christina Hakim are Arabic speakers and valued TWB community members who have both contributed their stories to spotlight real-life refugee experiences in the world today.
Lilav’s story of war and its archenemy, hope
Can you imagine yourself as a child during a war, with your playgrounds replaced by battlefields filled with dead bodies, blood, and rubble?
Or, for example, all the delight of colors which were shining in your life disappeared, and now you are haunted by the dust of war and the smell of death wherever you turn?
Have you ever imagined that your existence in your own home would turn into a nightmare that can transform your whole life into a living hell?
These horrible imaginations are exactly what thousands of children and refugees experience today in several places around the world. Wars and conflicts can truly destroy everyone’s future and leave them living in very bad conditions, where they have to start from zero. They face an obscure life and future. Loss and waiting are the two biggest pains experienced by refugees during their long journey of displacement, and every refugee’s heart is heavy with fear and anticipation.
Besides all of that, the scars and memories will bleed deeply even if they move to safe settings where they can be in peace.
Wars never stop killing everything, but there is always a little hope hidden away in every refugee’ tear that will never fade/disappear.
Translators without Borders and its partner non-governmental organizations provide me with an opportunity as a translator and reviser to help refugees through the delivery of the needed words, information, and knowledge in their language, allowing us all to be there for every refugee who is facing a challenge in a foreign country and a foreign language.
Therefore, I will use every skill I have such as translation experience and every education I’ve obtained, such as law, to make a difference in this universe.
I write in English, hoping to reach a wider audience as I’m sure it is the story of every human, regardless of nationality, who seeks to earn enough to provide for their family, to get out of their country, and bring them up if they’re lucky enough. At times, their motherland has failed to secure them their basic rights of survival as humans; financial and social stability, to name the most vital.
The reasons that pushed that young lady to leave her country, the mother or father who found no choice but to do that, the brother… every story is the same!
I am a Lebanese citizen who, like most migrants, found herself in a no-way-back situation. There’s nothing but to look forward to her children’s future outside of her homeland.
It’s still unofficially stated that “Lebanese” people are defined as refugees. Away from the literal classification of the word, the rush of miseries that hit the country since the #August2020blast and instability has pushed its people to migrate in remarkable numbers for years now.
What can be more devastating than someone taking the decision to leave behind their child, wife, sibling, parents, neighbor; desperate about a country that is one of the most beautiful on earth, known for its nature, culture, resources and memories?
You reach your host land, and here we face two scenarios:
The first, a person who flees alone.
The second, a person leaving with their family. And here I mean spouse and children, not parents; it’s incredibly rare to find elderly people who come to terms with leaving their roots behind, whatever the circumstances.
If you choose to flee alone, if you’re unable to bring your family with you to your host country, your days are never the same again. You live through loneliness, nostalgia with every minute passed, missing the smells, the smiles. What comes next is more dreadful, a constant quest to find the right opportunity, with the least humiliation possible and everything that comes with it. Now how do you go about living? That all depends on your chance of finding a well-paid job, otherwise you’ll end up in a shared apartment with people who have become refugees for the same reasons you have.
What now? You miss your roots? Your only way to connect with them is to text and call. I have known Filippinos who haven’t visited their families in years!
Have a look around when you’re on your commute to work and you can see, be it early morning or late at night. Across Europe, African people gather under a tree with no place to sleep, spending their nights in parks; Egyptians, Syrians, Algerians all share the same destiny, scattered around the world.
What about your work: remotely located and harsh conditions, with overbearing managers… how much more can you take? Would you respect yourself in that moment and have the courage to change jobs or even return back to your home country?
Sadly speaking, this is the life of every refugee, day-dreaming of the moment they might be reunited with their homeland; this is the life of every human who has lost their existence in their own country.
Community conversation: World Refugee Day
On June 20, 2022 we marked World Refugee Day with an online panel discussion. We invited a number of experts to speak about their experiences of forced migration. This year’s theme was whoever, wherever, whenever. It’s a message of inclusivity, reminding people that all refugees deserve our solidarity and support whatever their nationality, religion, or language.
What barriers do refugees, migrants and displaced people face?
Ahmed Ali Saleh hosted the event. Ahmed has spent 3 years working as a National Capacity Building Officer in Nigeria, and is currently a Program Manager for CLEAR Global. He explained how CLEAR Global is committed to helping all refugees overcome communication barriers. Whether fleeing Myanmar, Venezuela, Nigeria, Ukraine, or somewhere else, we work to connect people with the aid and services they need. Our solutions bridge the language and communication gaps too many people face.
“In the course of implementing training programs, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Borno’s border communities. The state borders three different countries, and this gave me the chance to witness firsthand people with refugee status who cannot speak the language of the country that is hosting them. Equally, the communities hosting them do not speak their language. That is quite challenging. You can see the enthusiasm when we speak their language – they know you understand them very, very well.”
Ahmed Ali Saleh
Joining us, we had Mira Hamour, a Syrian-Canadian documentary filmmaker and producer of Syria’s Tent Cities. Mira spoke about the experience of documenting the Syrian refugee crisis, visiting camps in Jordan and Lebanon as well as closer to home in Toronto and Ontario. She has lived and worked with relocated refugees in host communities.
“I saw very closely how language and lack of education can be a barrier for these children.”
Next on the panel was Chris Akili Lungu, a TWB Community member and social worker and monitoring and evaluation associate working with Soccer Without Borders, an NGO supporting young people. Chris himself fled the Democratic Republic of Congo a few years ago. His story is familiar in our community:
“Through organizations like TWB and Soccer Without Borders, I am glad to be able to help refugees who find themselves in similar situations to me.”
Chris Akili Lungu
And finally, Katya Seriekh is a talent attraction manager working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, based in Brussels. The organization works with professionals including interpreters and translators to make sure migrants and refugees get the protection they need.
“Language is very important. The words spoken are not everything. It’s very important to establish a connection and establish a relationship of trust. That’s why it’s very important to speak the languages of the people we’re supporting.”
Our participants discussed the challenges facing displaced people, what they’re doing to help, and how you can get involved. Bringing together speakers from across our team, our community and our partners, this LinkedIn Live is an opportunity to learn from each other and understand how we can build a stronger movement together.
Watch the recording below.
Amplify refugee voices
The TWB Community and our parent organization CLEAR Global will continue to share the stories of refugees, migrants, and forcibly displaced people. This is why we do what we do – we build communities, research communication and develop language technology solutions because we believe that every person has the right to get vital information and be heard, whatever language they speak. Our community members are making information accessible to more people in more languages. Everyone should have a say in their lives and know how to find safety and get help. We exist to listen and connect with people everywhere; thank you for taking the time to read about the experiences of some of our community members. Watch this space for more community voices.
In late 2021, we asked you to give feedback on your experience as part of the community. In the 2020 survey, we learned that we had a lot of new members join us that very year, and that you were all keen to work with us more.
Let’s see what changes we’ve made, and where there’s still room for improvement. We’re using your feedback to shape our plans for this year and beyond, because we want to make our community work well for you. So tell us, what is your number one priority for 2022?
Here are our key takeaways from our 2021 community survey:
We shall keep on listening, learning, and working together as a community – because, managing, building, and engaging with this community is a never-ending process that we hope to keep improving. Thank you for your continued support and feedback.
This is something we have heard consistently across the years and we are still looking for strategies to satisfy this popular request. In 2021, we created more chances for speakers of many languages to interact and engage with each other in our initiatives. We know that this isn’t enough, so we’ll keep working on it. If you know of an NGO that could benefit from our community’s language services, ask them to fill in our form. We’re committed to ensuring that all language communities have dedicated materials to translate.
“More tasks in my language pair would go a long way in helping me gain experience and upskill.”
Female, 18-24, from Cameroon
You kept volunteering through the COVID-19 pandemic
Most of you feel that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed the way you volunteer with TWB. Some of you have more free time or are more motivated to volunteer. And for some, volunteering has become complicated because of lifestyle changes.
“My husband lost his job and I had to engage myself in earning more which made me more exhausted. Struggling for a decent survival of my own family that has kids, I somehow lost the time, commitment, and tenacity to help others for free.“
Female, 35-44, from India
No contribution is too small or too big for us and for people in need. Ten percent of community members volunteer every week. Others volunteer once or twice per year (14% and 12%, respectively). It’s important that you feel you can contribute as much as your schedule allows, and that there are no expectations in terms of how much or how often you volunteer with us.
You are staying with the organization longer. Thank you.
Retention rates are up. In 2020, most of our respondents (62%) had been volunteering for less than a year. In 2021, just 47% of you had been with us less than a year. We have more “veterans” who have been volunteering for more than 5 years (6% of respondents), as well as many people who have already been in the community for 1-2 years (24%). Whether you joined the organization just yesterday, or you have been with TWB for years now – thank you for your support. Your knowledge and skills are and always will be appreciated.
“I am happy to be a TWB translator. I do not regret for a single time that I chose to be one of your volunteers. Let’s keep that good work we are doing.“
Male, 25-34, from Haiti
You are eager to learn more.
Two-thirds of respondents indicated that you have a regular day job. We truly appreciate your desire to include TWB in your busy schedule. At the same time, we also get a lot of requests for more training and resources.
“I am very happy as it is. I would like more courses to improve the level of the translators and the tools. I really enjoy when we have a gathering in which we analyse some topic!!“
Female, 55+, from Uruguay
We already have plans to share new and exciting training and webinars in 2022. Seventy-one percent of respondents have used our resources already. Thanks to your feedback, we are expanding our training offers for the new year – stay tuned for more information.
Overall, you are happy with your TWB experience.
Eighty-five percent of community members reported that you were “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with your TWB experience. Your main motivations for continued support are the satisfaction of helping people in need, and the ambition to gain professional experience and enrich your profiles.
“TWB offers a wonderful platform for freelance translators to build up themselves.“
Male, 35-44, from Kenya
It’s a pleasure to hear from you, and to work with you to help people get information and be heard, whatever language they speak.
Thank you for being part of this amazing journey with us.
TWB’s global community of linguists donate their time and skills to help people get vital information and be heard, whatever language they speak. We love sharing our volunteers’ stories as a way to recognize their work and inspire others.
Africa is home to an estimated 2,000 languages. Amid such linguistic diversity, languages are important to an individual’s cultural identification and community development. For too many African linguists, poor governmental and institutional support hinders their potential. A lack of educational resources, reliable connection, and training opportunities prevents many from pursuing a career in the language industry. On a brighter note, many language enthusiasts are starting initiatives to help promote and strengthen indigenous African languages. They’re uniting their minds, voices, and talent to sustain the African language community through networking and innovative technology, such as a speech-recognition program in Rwanda or local-language chatbot apps to answer people’s health questions in the DRC and Nigeria.
The African language community at TWB
We recognize their great capacity. Around 3,500 of our volunteer linguists are from approximately 50 African countries. They speak over 200 languages, from Acholi to Zulu. Being part of our community enables them to use their skills to make communication more equitable while learning and acquiring experience. Self-taught linguists who may lack local opportunities can benefit from online training and connections.
In a recent community engagement initiative this summer, we brought African language speakers together for East African Language week. Participants met the TWB team (virtually!), and joined training sessions on the tools and guides we use. This enabled them to develop language tech skills relevant to their TWB projects and future careers. We also ran a contest, which spiked a lot of interest among the community!
Many of our linguists speak Swahili, a Bantu language primarily spoken in East Africa. With about 15 dialects and many local language influences, delivering information in Swahili can be a difficult task for organizations trying to reach local people. Thankfully, our TWB community of Swahili speakers works hard to improve communication between humanitarians and the communities they support.
Swahili skills support people across Africa
We interviewed Jeff from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ursuline from Tanzania. Their support is vital to improve two-way communication in their countries’ varieties of Swahili. While they take part in many translation projects, those related to COVID-19 were particularly significant for them.
Both Jeff and Ursuline have been personally affected by the pandemic. When it all started, Jeff had just lost his job, which caused financial instability in his family. Ursuline shared that she has lost relatives, friends, and fellow health workers to the virus. Their countries struggled at all levels. Jeff and Ursuline helped provide reliable COVID-19 information that previously wasn’t available in Swahili.
As a health educator, I wish people could understand and follow the recommended basic preventive measures of COVID-19, such as handwashing, social distancing, and getting vaccinated.
Ursuline, Swahili translator
Born in Lituhi, a South Tanzania village
Speaks Swahili and English, as well as five of Tanzania’s 121 local languages
Has donated 343,640 words for 30 NGOs supported by TWB
Born in a small village of Mweha in the DRC
Speaks 7 languages and has visited 7 African countries
Loves to read, translate, and help others succeed professionally
What is your biggest motivation for volunteering with TWB?
Jeff: My biggest motivation for volunteering with TWB is helping people access vital information in their own language by breaking language barriers. I also want to get more experience and grow professionally to be able to better support my family.
Ursuline: My biggest motivation for volunteering with TWB/CLEAR Global was my previous experience in documenting research papers, policy guidelines, strategic plans, implementation manuals, reports, etc, and sometimes translating them into Swahili. By donating my time and efforts, I hope to help reduce language barriers between the organizations TWB supports and their target communities.
Has working as a translator changed your perspective?
Jeff: It has opened many doors for me. As a TWB volunteer, I have met many people and learned a lot of things helpful for my career. Volunteering with TWB made me want to stay in the translation industry as a freelancer forever.
Ursuline: As a translator, I feel I have been useful to my country. I have learned a lot by translating many documents about health, education, development, and humanitarian issues. I also believe that the TWB partners for whom I have translated documents [will] find them useful for their service delivery and to save lives. Translating with TWB has changed the way I see language, going beyond mere words.
When do you find time to volunteer for TWB?
Jeff: In May, I got a new job as a Project Coordinator in the nonprofit sector. I have been much busier than last year. With this new job, I find time to work for TWB over the weekends, and sometimes in the evenings in the week if there is an emergency.
Ursuline: My work environment and day job have not changed much this year. I started to volunteer with TWB about 3 years ago after I retired from the government. I try my best to work hard and meet the TWB deadlines.
Do you have any advice for aspiring TWB volunteers?
Jeff: Anybody who can translate from English to any other language should volunteer for TWB. They will never get disappointed as they will meet wonderful people and learn many new things through TWB. If the speakers of my language knew about TWB, they would create an account immediately.
Ursuline: My advice for aspiring TWB Volunteers is they should take action now by registering themselves with TWB. They should also read and understand the TWB policies. They should try to improve their computer skills to be able to do TWB’s online tasks.
What’s next for you?
Jeff: I would like to get a scholarship for a master’s degree in translation/localization so that I can be a fully-fledged professional translator. I hope to achieve great success in my career.
Ursuline: I will continue to work with TWB as long as possible. Being at home and sick, I do not aspire for a new career path, but to sharpen my present translation and revision skills with TWB. I also personally hope to write or translate an interesting book.
Jeff and Ursuline’s TWB journeys are very personal and purposeful. Despite their individual challenges, they have both invested themselves so much to help their communities and benefited greatly in return. For that, we are incredibly grateful.
If you feel inspired by Jeff and Ursuline’s stories, and speak an indigenous African language, help people get vital information and be heard by joining our community today.
Written by Milana Vračar, Communications Officer for TWB, part of CLEAR Global. Interview responses by Joseph (Jeff) Habamungu and Ursuline Nyandindi, Swahili translators for TWB.
Translators improve lives by translating lifesaving information for people who speak marginalized languages. Those who volunteer as part of the Translators without Borders (TWB) community have a range of experiences and skills. They share our vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all our linguists, and we love sharing their stories.
Today, we’re interviewing Jean Bellefleur, one of our longest serving Haitian Creole volunteers from Grand’Anse, Haiti. Now based in Canada, Jean is committed to translating vital content from English into Haitian Creole to support the Haitian community. He understands the value of communicating with and listening to people in their own language. Since joining in 2016, he has donated 170,000 words, contributing to projects ranging from manuals on creation of free wheelchairs to FAQs around COVID-19 vaccines for children.
Joined TWB out of curiosity
Lived in Grand’Anse and Port-au-Prince
Loves to read and learn new skills
“Jean has supported us for many years as the most active volunteer for Haitian Creole. So many projects wouldn’t have been delivered without him.”
Ambra Sottile, Senior Community Officer for TWB, part of CLEAR Global
Rewind to 2010
On August 14, 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck not far from Jean’s homeplace in Haiti, leaving more than 650,000 people in need of emergency assistance. We know that for the people affected, ensuring they get the information they need in a format they understand is paramount. It’s been just over 10 years that we’ve formed Translators without Borders (TWB) to respond to the earthquake in Haiti. Urgent medical information and crisis advice were not reaching the local people in their language. It became apparent that even the largest aid organizations did not have the language resources they needed to effectively communicate with local people. Aimee Ansari, now Executive Director of CLEAR Global and TWB, in an interview with United Language Group, recalls that almost all communication was in French: “Haitians could not understand the information they were given; they couldn’t use it, or ask any questions about it.”
A small group of people touched by the devastation volunteered to ensure that Haitians could access and understand the information they needed to stay safe and well in a time of crisis. At the time, we found that only 5% of the population was fluent in French, the “official” language of the country. Current estimates maintain that only 5-10% of Haitians speak French day-to-day. So it was — and still is — pivotal to ensure that important messages were relayed in the language spoken by the people: Haitian Creole. Aimee says: “I remember the relief in people’s eyes when we gave them information in Haitian Creole or when the team discussed issues with the displaced people in their language; it was deeply moving.” Linguists put their skills to use to provide lifelines for the Haitian community. They made sure they could find information on where to shelter, and how to avoid the spread of cholera that too often claims lives in the aftermath of a natural disaster. We translated aid information, established a translation platform, and built a community of skilled linguists. Eventually, we established a nonprofit organization to help with the crisis. and later respond to other emerging crises around the world.
Local community – global impact
Jean appreciates that “it was a hugely positive and great initiative which is useful for many local and international organizations that serve thousands of people in Haiti and throughout the world.” We started out small, and evolved from a group of volunteers, to a nonprofit, to a community of over 60,000 translators, and now we have global ambitions – to help people get vital information and be heard, whatever language they speak. Still to this day, every individual involved, everyone who contributes a few words or donates their time, is vital to this ambition.
“I feel very proud and honored to put my skills to work, accompanying TWB to reach out to the people of Haiti and elsewhere where too many languages are left out of important discussions. Languages matter the most in a time of great humanitarian crisis. Without the cooperation of the whole TWB team, we couldn’t make it.”
“I am making a difference in people’s lives, especially for vulnerable people, and it is impacting their lives in a positive way. I hope to help amplify the voices of people in remote areas within the communities in Haiti and any other part of the world who speak Haitian Creole or French.”
Jean, Haitian Creole translator
Security threats, and COVID-19 continue to exacerbate a complex emergency. So, for local people, being able to get information they want and to be heard, is lifesaving. This is why we continue to collaborate with partners to improve channels of two-way communication, for speakers of Haitian Creole and other marginalized languages around the world.
Jean says he is proud to be part of a community effort:
“I am happy to have contributed to 6 million words of COVID-19 information translated, and changing people’s lives for good. I can tell you that TWB is my home. The whole team and I have become family. I have been treated with respect and kindness, valued and appreciated for my time. Being part of the language community helps translators achieve their goals, learn professional skills, and see translation from another perspective.”
At Translators without Borders (TWB), we are lucky to have extraordinary team members who are recognized worldwide. We are always grateful to have uniquely skilled members of the international community choose to be part of our cause. Today, we are proud to share the story of Cédrick Irakoze, Crisis Response and Community and Recruitment Intern for TWB. He was recently awarded a place to be part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) network. The YALI network invests in the next generation of African leaders, providing invaluable opportunities to connect and learn from experts. Learn more about the YALI network here.
Cédrick is a young Burundian language professional. He holds a bachelor’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from the University of Burundi, and has years of experience as a professional translator. He believes that language can improve or even save lives in this global world. And interaction in the right language can be vital for everyone, no matter people’s language, culture, or the color of their skin.
“TWB is my professional home” – Cédrick
In 2018, Cédrick first featured in our blog as a volunteer translator from English and French into Rundi. This was his introduction to the world of language in humanitarian work: “When I joined TWB as an intern, I joined a community of like-minded individuals serving the global community. Now I call TWB my professional home.” Day-to-day, Cédrick engages and collaborates with our translator community to help create a world with no language barriers.
But in late 2019, he did something different. He successfully applied for the Young African Leaders Initiative program.
The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)
In 2016, Cédrick joined the Young African Leaders Initiative network with over 25,000 other young and talented individuals. In 2019, he met with 108 successful candidates from over 7000 applicants to attend a one-month leadership training course.
Energetic public officials, business owners, and local and international nonprofit leaders from all over Africa came together in Nairobi, Kenya. On hearing their stories, Cédrick reflected, “The way they are each committed to making their communities better inspired me.” The Translators without Borders team is delighted to have witnessed a team member take on such an exciting, formative challenge.
“Thank you very much. TWB showed me so much love and support before and during the program!” – Cédrick
It’s all about communication
The course was about inspiring and equipping one another to become better leaders. Participants developed their communication skills and built solutions-oriented networks. These factors are central to the changes these young leaders want to see in society. Each member of the diverse group – native speakers of over fifty languages – played a vital part.
This richness and diversity are reflected in TWB’s own community of translators and supporters, and in our way of working. We too rely on the power of teamwork to make change — to improve communications and access to information worldwide. Cédrick’s big takeaway is that when we come together we can innovate, we can flourish and we can make each other feel valued.
“Diversity is richness in professional life” – Cédrick
With the skills he’s learned through this course, Cédrick hopes to make a positive impact in his professional and social circles. “I can’t wait to contribute more and better to our common mission: to create a world that knows no language barriers.”
Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer for Translators without Borders. Interview responses by Cédrick Irakoze, Crisis Response and Community and Recruitment Intern for Translators without Borders.
Translators improve lives by translating potentially lifesaving information into often ‘marginalized’ languages spoken by vulnerable individuals. Those who volunteer for Translators without Borders (TWB) have a range of experiences and skills, and share a vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all our translators, and we love sharing their stories.
Two of our top translators of Tigrinya, a language spoken by approximately seven million people, deserve special recognition for the work they did in 2018. Our featured translators, Kidane Haile and Kalayu Menasbo, have their roots in Eritrea and Ethiopia respectively. But they are united by a common language and their tireless desire to use their skills to support those in need.
Tigrinya is a Semitic language, belonging to the same language family as Amharic, Hebrew, Arabic, and Maltese. It is widely spoken in Eritrea and in northern Ethiopia, and by immigrant communities in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and parts of Europe.
Missing Children Europe
Tigrinya was one of the most important marginalized languages at TWB in 2018, primarily because of our partners’ work with refugees. For example, Missing Children Europe works with refugee youth in Europe who are unaccompanied; Tigrinya is one of the most important languages for this work. Kalayu and Kidane both contributed to the Missing Children Europe work, giving hope to people who have been forced from home due to poverty, hunger, persecution, discrimination, civil war, or unemployment. Young people and displaced or unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable in such situations. They need to be able to report problems and to know their rights and responsibilities. They cannot do any of that without information in a language they understand.
Kalayu knows how important it is to ensure communication does not become a barrier to humanitarians providing safety. Language mediators are crucial. So the documents provided by our Tigrinya translators can be life-changing.
Kidane, too, sees it as a privilege to work with an organization like Missing Children Europe: to know he is supporting young children, and that the work he does is valuable.
A translator’s journey: taking refuge and delivering safety with words
Kidane now works from his home office in Buffalo, New York translating from English to Tigrinya. The dedicated volunteer prides himself on communication and a desire to help others, hence his enthusiasm for working with TWB. Since joining in April 2018, Kidane has completed 60 tasks, amounting to 32,000 words.
“At one time in my life, I was a refugee. So, I understand what it is like to be in an unfamiliar country, facing a language barrier and other challenges. When I work with people in that situation, I understand what they are going through and it makes me happy to help them,” Kidane Haile, Translator
In 2010, Kidane arrived in the United States with refugee status. For four years he worked part-time, studied full-time, and worked on his English fluency. It was then that he realized his knowledge of Tigrinya and English opened up an opportunity to work and help the community simultaneously. Now he works as a full-time interpreter, though he never forgets where his journey began:
“I often think about making life easier for people who start in a new country and need help communicating and understanding their new situation, the way I was years ago.”
Kalayu, the second of our spotlighted Tigrinya translators, works in the same language pair from his home in Ethiopia. This busy volunteer has translated almost 30,000 words across 17 tasks since he joined TWB in October 2018. He continually aims to serve and provide for others through improved communications.
And his dedication to the mission is evident: Kalayu often works late into the night to complete translation tasks, without the convenience of a home laptop.
In fact, the keen reader and ex-radio journalist wears many charitable hats: he also works for World Vision Ethiopia, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children and families. In his various roles, he creates safe, protected environments by translating vital information into local languages.
Kidane’s experience with TWB has expanded his written translation skills and helped him to take on work outside of his primary field of interpretation.
Kalayu explains how working with TWB helped him understand the impact a translation can make:
“I have no money to support people, but I have the skill of translation – a skill that can support those who need it in their daily life.” This revelation has made Kalayu a committed language professional.
“A translation task may take you a day, but for those who need it, it may serve as a life continuing catalyst,” Kalayu Menasbo.
“You are always learning from your colleagues and sometimes you are asked for advice too.” Patricia Cassoni, translator for Translators without Borders (TWB).
Translators improve the lives of countless individuals, allowing them to access information and knowledge in their own language. Those who volunteer for Translators without Borders share a vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers.
TWB’s virtual community of translators possesses a range of experiences. Kató, the translation platform used by TWB, gives volunteers the opportunity to develop their skills and professional networks while working on impactful projects for nonprofit organizations. Those organizations trust us to provide accurate translations, often in short timeframes. We are grateful for all of our volunteers, and we love sharing their stories.
Part of the community
Today, the spotlight falls on Patricia Cassoni, one of our most active Kató translators, who has been volunteering with us since 2012. Working from Portuguese to Spanish and English to Spanish, she has completed nearly 300 tasks, amounting to over 360,000 words. Patricia is excited to be part of the community of translators. “I like to meet people through the platform,” she told us, “because, more or less, we have the same intentions and interests of living in a better and fairer world.”
Patricia’s work has helped to improve hundreds if not thousands of lives. She feels that translating allows her to develop her motivation for helping people.
“It keeps me in permanent contact with the real world,” she says. “As a translator, it is very rewarding to use my knowledge to help those who need it.”
Prison yoga project
Patricia has worked on projects you might never have imagined, using her translation skills to shape lives in every sense of the word. One project that is particularly dear to her is a book translation for the Prison Yoga Project, an organization that works to bring yoga and mindfulness to American prisons. The nonprofit organization trains yoga instructors, produces instructional materials, and teaches classes in detention and rehabilitation centers. It also provides support programs for released inmates, with the ultimate goal of reducing their likelihood of reoffending.
Within TWB’s community of Kató translators, Patricia is both mentor and student, sharing her knowledge and skills with colleagues, and also benefiting from their experiences too.
“Belonging to TWB’s community of Kató translators is very interesting,” she recounts. “Once, a judicial translator from California contacted me and asked my opinion about her work. It was funny because I had been a judicial translator for fifteen years and this girl did not know it.” Patricia is an excellent example of how participating in the TWB’s community can not only benefit volunteer translators but how it can also make the world feel like a smaller, less divided place.