Merging professional and personal goals: Sue Fortescue

Our interviewee for this issue is Sue Fortescue, Volunteer Manager at Translators without Borders (TWB), who has been actively recruiting ‘non-translator’ volunteers via different media. Sue told us how her professional and personal goals come together in her volunteer work.

“I came to translation quite late in life, after spending the first part of my career as an English Language teacher (in Italy, Nepal and the UK) and the second part as an IT Manager (in Belgium and the US).  My first degree was in Italian and French, and I also have an MA in Applied Linguistics and an MSc in Knowledge-Based Systems.

I retired to the UK in 2011 and spent some time re-familiarising myself with the land of my birth.  Then I began to miss the international atmosphere in which I had spent most of my life so, as a retirement project, I registered for the MA in AudioVisual Translation Studies at the University of Leeds. I followed the course part-time over two years, and thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills and meeting interesting people.  Now I am using those skills to translate a play, written by an Italian friend, – and we have high hopes that it might be produced in London one of these days. Watch this space!

We have ‘Professionalisation Talks’ once a week, when language industry professionals come and talk to us about their careers.  Towards the end of 2014, the talk was given by Andrew Bredenkamp, Chair of TWB – and I was hooked!  I emailed to ask if I could help, was interviewed early in 2015, and was invited to take up the position of Volunteer Manager.  I spend approximately two days a week replying to the volunteers who fill in the ‘Other Volunteer’ application form (i.e. not translators) and I LOVE it!

My job involves emailing and skyping people all over the world who want to help TWB.  They have a huge range of skills and very interesting backgrounds.  As well as translators, we need web engineers, fundraisers, graphic designers – a host of skills!” 

To volunteer, just fill in the application form on our website:


Other volunteers:

Target shooting

In paper: The Economist, every week!  I also belong to a book club and enjoy discussing books with my friends.  We recently read Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin, an inspiring story about the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda.

Open-air activity: Walking by the sea with friends

With friends: Concerts, operas, art galleries, museums

Philanthropy: is an important part of my life.  I volunteer with Samaritans, a charity that provides emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.  I am also a member of Soroptimist International (SI) ( and have belonged to SI clubs in the United States and Belgium as well as in the UK.

Lorena Baudo

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