Geospatial analyst by day; Humanitarian at heart

It was the TEDx talk Ebola: a crisis of language given by Rebecca Petras (Deputy Director of Translators without Borders), that first caught Carole Mrad’s attention. The talk highlighted the vital role that language can play in saving lives. Right away this inspired Carole who, being a speaker of Arabic, decided to join the Arabic Rapid Response Translation (RRT) team, a key element of TWB’s response to the European refugee crisis in Greece.

“Communication is a key and crucial element in any humanitarian crisis. One word in the right language could make a significant difference and save people’s lives.”

Carole’s translation of media roundups, the Rumours fact sheets and guidance on asylum application procedures in Europe, has been a valuable contribution to the response and has likely provided much comfort for those affected by the crisis. One of her favorite assignments as a member of the RRT was to translate a news article on the Love-Europe mobile app. The new app is designed to help refugees navigate and communicate in Europe. “Love-Europe is a positive and innovative application to help refugees in Germany and the Netherlands access assistance in those countries,” Carole explains. “An update is being developed that will connect the community of helpers to refugees.”

As Carole sees it…

… Most refugees come from countries where conflict, fear, and oppression force them to flee for their lives. Being unable to communicate, places an extra burden on them when they are already traumatized and struggling to adapt to their new circumstances. When content is not in the right language, refugees are denied access to vital information about basic but essential services.

Carole believes that a common European approach is urgently needed to enhance local and national efforts to effectively respond to the refugee crisis. In Carole’s view, “European countries are facing immense challenges in responding to requests for humanitarian aid, asylum and integration – in terms of housing, language, work and so on,” she explains.

A little more about Carole

A geologist with degrees from the American University of Beirut and the University of Windsor in Ontario, Carole has worked as a geotechnical engineer but is currently freelancing as a geospatial analyst. She also works as a Spanish translator for Twitter and a translator, transcriber, and reviewer for TEDx conferences. In her free time, Carole practices martial arts and is passionate about gender equity in sports. She also has a keen interest in web design, fundraising, wildlife conservation and earth sciences.

Would you like to volunteer? 

Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer

The TWB translator community survey results are out!

Translators without Borders (TWB) recently carried out a survey of our translator community. The survey received 168 responses, and it gave some valuable insights into the experiences of volunteer translators and what motivates them as a community.

We have highlighted here five of the most interesting findings from the survey.

1. our translators are mostly motivated by helping others.

An overwhelming majority (97%) of translators said they volunteer because they like helping others and contributing to a good cause.

While career development, increased professional visibility, and interesting projects were also mentioned as some of the benefits of volunteering with TWB, our volunteer community is primarily driven by the desire to help people in need and work for humanitarian causes.

“Recognition is always nice. However, I really don’t need any more incentives. I’m motivated by something which has nothing to do with rewards.”

2. our translators are embracing technology.

Nearly 40% of respondents have had the opportunity to work on Kató, the new and improved  TWB translation platform that enables online collaboration and allows translators to use translation memory and glossary tools.

Most of our translators are familiar with Computer-Assisted Translation tools and use them in their work. This has produced some discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of translation technology.

According to our translators, the top advantages of doing work on an online platform are:

  • better quality and consistency
  • easier collaboration and sharing
  • the use of translation memory and glossaries
  • better translation workflow
survey of translator community
The advantages of Computer-Assisted Translation tools according to TWB volunteers

Some of the downsides include translators’ preference to use their own tools while working, specific technical requirements (such as using a particular browser for translation), and the need to have online connectivity to do work.

Generally TWB translators are open to trying new tools and approaches in their work and have also been very generous with providing suggestions and feedback on these tools.

3. our translators are open to collaboration on projects.

Translation is often seen as a solitary endeavor, although modern technology may be changing that. In fact, many of our volunteers expressed interest in online collaboration, citing the following reasons as the top advantages of working together as translators:

survey of translator community
The top advantages of online collaboration

4. TWB volunteers care DEEPLY about translation quality.

Many of the responses from our translators focused on ensuring good translation quality, whether through proofreading, feedback, or consistency checks.

This shows that our translators care a lot about the quality of their work and are proactively looking to improve it. In fact, over half of our translators said that receiving translation feedback and corrections from colleagues is important to them.

We recognize that comments from colleagues are particularly valuable to translators. Not only can this be a good source of specific, positive feedback (“Please keep doing what you’re doing, it’s great!”), but it also provides opportunities for growth and improvement (“Here is what you can do even better”).

We are looking for ways to provide regular feedback to our translators and will be sure to incorporate the suggestions of our volunteers about quality and collaboration into our new initiatives.

5. We heard your feedback!

Many of our translators said they appreciate recognition for their work, be it a word of thanks from the partners, visibility of how their translations are benefiting others, or, occasionally, acknowledgment in the form of recommendations or endorsements.

Recognizing this, we encourage our non-profit partners to leave feedback for translators as much as possible, and we are also looking for other ways to recognize the efforts of our volunteer translators, such as through translator appreciation initiatives and by featuring translators in our Volunteer Profiles on the TWB website.

We will continue using the feedback from this survey as we develop our translator community initiatives. It is important to us that our translators feel engaged and appreciated, and that they see Translators without Borders as a source of meaningful, interesting work.

Please stay tuned for more updates about our volunteer translator community. If you are a translator, we would encourage you to join our TWB Translator Volunteers Facebook private group, and if you would like to give us specific feedback or ask a question, you can always write to [email protected]

Until next time!


Apply here to become a TWB volunteer

Marina KhoninaBy Marina Khonina, Translation Quality and Community Manager

 

5 Top Tips: Volunteering for Busy People

Living in London, raising four children and working as an English to French freelance translator can get super busy!  I have always been highly aware that there are people on this earth who are in desperate need of help, so I am determined to contribute as a volunteer even if my personal and work commitments can be demanding. Having translated over six hundred thousand words for Translators without Borders in my spare time, I have picked up a few techniques to successful volunteering while juggling a busy schedule.

Here are my 5 top tips:

1. Consider your skills. When I realized that speaking two languages fluently could help other people improve their health and quality of life, I knew that volunteering as a translator was the most valuable skill I could offer.

2. Plan ahead. I plan my week so that I frequently have a few hours free for volunteer tasks. Setting aside an allocated time, helps volunteering become a routine as any other part of my schedule.

Calendar 3. Think of this as a learning opportunity. I usually translate medical, health, and IT focused texts, as I have a lot of experience of this from my work as a freelance translator. However, translating for a non-profit can be very different, making it an opportunity to learn and to develop your skills as a translator in thematic areas that are new to you.

4. Remember your motivation. Helping others has been my dream from a young age. Volunteering helps me to do that. Keep your motivation fresh in your mind, and you will always have time for volunteering.

5. Prioritize your commitment to volunteering. Volunteering for me is as important a part of my life as earning money or taking care of my family. We all manage to find time to watch a film or to play a game. If being a volunteer is important to you, then put it high on your list of priorities.

To sign up as a volunteer with Translators without Borders, click here.

Volunteer TranslatorBy Lamia Ishak, Translators without Borders volunteer translator

Lamia has been a TWB volunteer since 2013, and in that time, she has translated over 600,000 words for non-profit organizations.

Language: One of the major obstacles faced by refugees

Tunisian researcher, Mayssa Allani insists that a cooperative approach is required when dealing with the refugee crisis in Europe. She believes that countries around the world should be united in helping refugees overcome the trauma of the war. In order to help, it is necessary to overcome one of the major obstacles faced by refugees: language.

While studying at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece Mayssa taught Arabic to European volunteers in the refugee camps so that they could communicate better with those affected by the crisis. She was shocked by the misery and sadness she found in the camps. “As a volunteer, it was sometimes very hard for me to hide my tears, and to maintain a strong face. Saying goodbye at the end of the day was so emotional,” she remembers, “the little kids were clinging to me.”

LAnguage is one of the major obstacles

But this gave her an opportunity to learn about the refugee crisis first-hand. She gained a better understanding of the humanitarian sector and was impressed by the commitment of volunteers from many different countries. She realized that language is one of the major obstacles faced by refugees.

“Language is one of the major obstacles faced by refugees. It hinders refugees trying to voice their concerns, interact and communicate with others”

In such situations, translation is essential to overcome language obstacles and to ensure effective communication, because refugees need to have access to information and news in a language they understand.

Her experience in the camps led Mayssa to volunteer with Translators without Borders (TWB). Now living back in Tunisia, she helps refugees remotely by translating from English to Arabic for the TWB Arabic Rapid Response Team. Volunteering for TWB keeps her abreast of the changing conditions at the camp and helps her feel connected to the situation. “I am happy to be part of a group of dedicated translators,” Mayssa says. “It has been a rewarding experience to provide a rapid, high-quality translation.”

Her daily activities for the RRT include translating and editing articles to help refugees get access to vital information in their language. She translates instructions about asylum-seeking registrations and procedures, and important news items. With access to clear, up-to-date information, refugees are empowered.

Refugees deserve better support, education, and care so as to lead a peaceful life and to forget about the destructive war they have experienced,” she says. “Kids should be sent to school as soon as possible and given special care. I would like to go back to the refugee camps to help the people further and to put a smile on the kids’ faces.”

Mayssa majored in English language and literature and has experience in translation with national and international organizations. She is a strong advocate for human rights and an active volunteer for several non-profit organizations.

Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

How To: Use your personal experience for a good cause

Majed Abo dan knows what life is like as a refugee. His story is the story of how personal experience can be used for a good cause.
Majed and his family arrived on Chios island in Greece on 20 March 2016, a day after the EU-Turkey deal took effect. They had traveled as refugees from their home in Aleppo, Syria, seeking safety and security in Europe.

Majed‘s arrival in Greece was chaotic and confusing, especially as people tried to interpret and apply the conditions of the new deal. “The Greek authorities detained us in Vial Camp. There was little information available for us about our legal rights; everything was a total mess,” he recalls.

While on Chios island, Majed showed his compassion for fellow-refugees. He worked with the Norwegian Refugee Council as a food security assistant. “It was the most perfect experience in my life, and it was an honor for me to work with such a respectable NGO.”

In total, Majed and his family lived in Greece for nine months, on the islands of Chios and Leros and later in Athens. He and his family recently arrived in Mainz, Germany, where they plan to settle. He is very happy to be living in Germany, a country that has fascinated him since he was a little boy, describing it as “a dream come true.”

from experience to a good cause

Throughout their time as refugees, Majed was frustrated by the lack of clear information and the abundance of unreliable rumors. He decided to find some answers for himself. “I found a website called News That Moves, which seemed to provide good and true news. I decided to be a part of that team, to help myself and other refugees to find some facts.”

News That Moves is a source of verified information for refugees. It is produced by Internews and translated into three languages by Translators without Borders’ Rapid Response Team (RRT). Majed is now a productive member of the RRT, translating and editing articles almost daily. He is particularly proud to have translated an article on how refugees can obtain a passport or a travel document in Greece. He knows from his own experience how valuable the information in that article is to refugees, and how essential it is to translate it into languages they understand.

“You have to know that information comes from trusted sources, to avoid inaccurate information and rumors”

There have been times when Majed has heard someone relaying information that he or an RRT colleague has translated. When that happens, he confesses, “I feel proud from the deepest part of my heart.” He is convinced that non-governmental organizations, volunteers, and local citizens make a tangible difference in refugees’ lives, noting that “Without them, we would not survive.”

want to volunteer?

Do you want to use your skills for a good cause? Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Majed has some expert advice for anyone thinking of joining the RRT. “Anyone who would like to join us should feel the crisis in their heart and understand the circumstances that led to it. Put yourself in the same position as the victims – then you can translate with your heart not just your words.”

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

The Modern Migrants

Eleni Gayraud uses the term modern migrants to describe her family. Her parents, her three siblings and she are spread around the world. They have migrated to various countries, to follow different dreams and to respond to different opportunities. “My family didn’t experience anything close to what refugees and migrants in the Greek islands and mainland currently do, but they do know what it’s like to leave everything behind.”

Helping other modern migrants

Eleni had been looking for an opportunity to help people in need. She found Translators without Borders (TWB), and since October 2016 has been one of a dedicated group of Rapid Response Team (RRT) volunteers. “I can help people in a very important way – not only the displaced people but also those working hard to deal with one of the worst migration crises ever. I can put my [translation] skills into practice and be of real help.”

Of course, language is important in any situation, but Eleni is adamant that in situations where people speak many different languages, such as the current refugee crisis, it is key.

“Being able to communicate and understand, helps keep everything from falling apart”

It helps people cooperate towards the same goal: a harmonic cohabitation and a functional solution to a vital problem. Translators and interpreters contribute and fill in the gaps.”

For personal reasons, Eleni became well-acquainted with the Greek island of Lesvos during the past year. She saw the refugee camps and how local people’s lives changed because of the crisis. She believes that everybody has a story to tell. “Refugee stories all have a face; sometimes it’s a father’s face, other times it’s an unaccompanied minor’s face, a single mother’s face, a teenager’s face or a young woman’s face. And those faces have names, be it Maria, Abdullah, Fatima or David.”

Joining Translators without borders

Eleni is enthusiastic about her role with TWB and wants to encourage other translators to get involved. She appreciates the recognition, understanding, and gratitude that is shown to volunteers. The experience, according to Eleni is personally rewarding and provides much more than simply an improved resumé. “The RRT volunteers are contributing to solving a real problem in a real world. But the best thing about being an RRT volunteer is that you are constantly reminded of what not giving up on your dreams looks like.”

If you have language skills and want to help people in need, you’re most welcome in our team. TWB’s goal is to provide refugees with up-to-date information in their native language. We aim to close the language gaps. So, do not hesitate to join us and help people for whom your skills are vital. You’ll know that you’re helping people, while at the same time challenging yourself to give a good quality translation.”

As a graduate from the Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies department at the University of Macedonia, and with French and Greek heritage, Eleni loves learning new languages. She now lives in Thessaloniki, Greece, where she is soon to complete her Masters in Translation. Not surprisingly for someone fascinated by language, Eleni describes herself as an avid reader and someone who is thrilled by foreign cultures. She loves to travel, and concludes that “Each travel experience leaves a mark on my path.”

Want to volunteer?

By joining TWB, you can help modern migrants just like Eleni. Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

Changing the world while sitting on your sofa

Changing the world through language

Listen to Translator without Borders Executive Director, Aimee Ansari talk about changing the world through language at [email protected] in November 2016.

Victoria Greenwood – giving TWB style

Victoria Greenwood is a professional digital copywriter who has been applying her expertise to the Translators without Borders (TWB) website content and search engine ranking with the goal of boosting our communications and creating awareness of TWB. TWB volunteer writer, Lorena, interviewed Victoria to get to know more about what it is she does to help TWB.

Q: How did you come to volunteer your time for Translators without Borders?

A: I have been writing and editing content for travel, educational and government websites for over ten years, and wanted to venture into helping a charity or non-profit organization. Big companies have plenty of budget for developing and refining their presence in the digital world, and I felt drawn to gift some of my time to an organization with a worthy cause to help improve their online presence.

After some digging around on Google, I came across Translators without Borders and sent over my CV.

Q: How would you describe your role with TWB?

A: Since July last year, I’ve been working on ad-hoc projects for TWB, with a particular focus on improving the usability of content. I’ve been involved with this newsletter as well but also reworking some of the most popular pages on the website to improve the calls to action and give them a good position in search engines. I occasionally do some proofreading too.

Q: How do you manage your work for TWB with the rest of your lifestyle?

A: Having spent most of the past few years traveling in Australia and South East Asia, I have quite a varied lifestyle. My plans revolve around my freelancing projects, but I also do other voluntary work and occasionally take on house or pet-sitting assignments. No month is the same! I do try to dedicate a few days a month to TWB. Fortunately, the team understands about other commitments, which means I can prioritize and move non-urgent content changes to another day.

Q: What do you see as the challenges ahead for TWB?

A: Online, a reader’s attention span lasts for only a few seconds, which makes it all the more important for messages to be concise and crystal clear. The big brands spend thousands on developing a consistent style and tone of voice and then applying that throughout their digital content. I’d like TWB to compete with those brands to share the good work of the organization and encourage even more people to get involved.

Q: You mentioned you have been traveling. Can you describe an interesting or fun thing you did last year? 

A: That would have to be volunteering with the dolphins at Monkey Mia in Western Australia. Preparing the fish for the dolphins’ daily feeds wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs, but later I could stand in the water with them while they waited for their treats. Being so close to them each day was quite a magical experience.

Visit Victoria’s LinkedIn page to see what other work she has been doing or to hear more about her work with creating awareness online for TWB.

Blog AuthorBy Lorena Baudo, Translators without Borders volunteer 

The written word can be the difference between hope and despair

Today Zahlé is home to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. They have fled the violence of civil war, and now they live in refugee camps and squalid accommodation throughout the city. For many refugees, the written word can be the difference between life and death, hope, and despair. They are desperate for information that will help them understand their options for creating a better future for themselves and their families.

Providing vital information

Zahlé is also home to Alain Alameddine, a volunteer for Translators without Borders (TWB). As a translator, Alain understands, perhaps more than most people, that the written word can be particularly powerful and beautiful for refugees. As a member of the TWB Rapid Response Team, he works with aid agencies to translate content from English into Arabic on a weekly (and sometimes even daily) basis, to provide vital information to refugees in languages they can understand.

Most Syrian refugees only speak Arabic, and so they are often at a loss as to what to do with the information that is available to them, for the simple reason that it is in a language they do not understand,” he explains.

“A quick translation can make a huge difference”

In addition to Alain’s work as a translator, he is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Through his voluntary ministry, he has brought a listening ear and words of comfort to refugees since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. “We’ve noticed first-hand that a listening ear is no less important than food and shelter,” Alain says. He often shares the Old Testament words of Isaiah with refugees he visits, Alain quotes ’we are pained, God is pained’.

One of Alain’s most frequently shared Bible quotes is one written on the Isaiah Wall near the United Nations in New York. It refers to a day when “nation will not take up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. We can only begin to imagine what those words mean to people who have fled violent conflict and persecution.

Giving new hope

In his work with refugees, Alain sees that words like these give refugees hope that things will change for the better. He has also gained new insights into himself and the world. “I am now more aware of the trials refugees face, the doubts and fears they might have, and the ways they can react to them,” he tells us. “As a translator, I am also now more aware of the importance of talking, writing and translating in a style that is easy to understand rather than using technical or pompous language.”

It seems that in Alain Alameddine, the city of Zahlé has produced yet another man who understands the power and beauty of the written word, and who is willing to use it to help people in need.

Are you a translator? Sign up to volunteer for the Translators without Borders Rapid Response team today.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

How To: Make a Difference from a Distance

Born in Iran, but now a US citizen, Translators without Borders (TWB) volunteer Mehrnaz Kuros has a degree in business administration, and considerable experience working in the corporate sector. She is well aware that many of the refugees she sees on television have similar qualifications and experience to herself. That is why she decided to make a difference from a distance.

Desperate to help

Like many of us, when Mehrnaz saw the first television and print images of refugees bound for Europe, she was shocked and sad. She realized that many of them had been forced into this action by circumstances well beyond their control. “It is unbelievable, how people give up everything and risk their lives, to begin a new life, in a new world.”

It all comes down to politics,” she notes. “For some people, being in power blinds them to the inherent value of people, nature, heritage, and humanity.”

Mehrnaz was determined to help those affected by political turmoil.

“I thought that by cooperating with Translators without Borders, I could play a small part in helping migrants and refugees. I wish the best for them”

Mehrnaz’s daughter sent her a link to a site that talked about the work of TWB to help refugees affected by the crisis in Europe. With considerable experience translating between English and Farsi, Mehrnaz was quick to volunteer her skills and join TWB’s Rapid Response Translation (RRT) team.

Helping from a distance

Several times a week, Mehrnaz connects remotely with TWB team members and volunteers to identify the material that she can translate. She does all of the translation remotely, even while she is traveling.

Being able to communicate in other languages is important to Mehrnaz. She believes that it helps her to relate to people from different nations and to stay informed about news and current affairs. Her language skills enable her, through translation, to help other people to adjust to new conditions, environments, and societies. One of the most satisfying translations Mehrnaz has completed for TWB was a text regarding the EU-Turkey deal, which negotiated in March 2016. While she was aware of the many challenges the deal presented, she saw it as at least a framework for responding. She was happy to be able to communicate it to people who, until then, had operated in an environment of uncertainty, rumor, and chaos.

Clearly affected by what she describes as “the modern exodus,” Mehrnaz remains optimistic about addressing it. “It’s so sad to read the news – and it’s somehow unbelievable – to have had so many disasters in the 21st century. I hope things will move in a better direction and crises can be solved.”

Want to volunteer?

With dedicated volunteers like Mehrnaz working from a distance, there is always hope that things will indeed change for the better. Sign up to be a Rapid Response Volunteer with Translators without Borders now.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer