Rapid Response Volunteers for the European Refugee Crisis project

Sofia Vlavianou

1. Why did you decide to participate in the work of the Rapid Response Team (RRT)?

I have always admired the work of TWB and have made donations via my translation company, so when the RRT was formed I was happy to have an opportunity to offer some of my time to such a worthy cause.

2. What are your daily activities for the RRT?

Usually I spend about an hour a day translating news items and articles, or editing. The Skype group for the RRT is a great environment to work in, with excellent translators who like working together and ensuring a quick turnaround for vital pieces of information for refugees and refugee workers.

3. What are your views about the current refugee crisis in Europe?

I am greatly saddened by both the refugee crisis and the way it is being handled by Europe and the world. I think it is disgraceful that any nation should find excuses to turn its back on people in need, especially considering that most European countries have, at one time or another in history, experienced crises which forced their peoples to become refugees or migrants. As for my own country, Greece, I fear that it has been saddled with a burden that is much too heavy for it to bear, coming as it does on the back of a long-standing economic crisis.

4. Why do you think that language is important in such situations?

Certain concepts are universal and do not require language: stretching out to grab a child from the sea, handing a warm blanket to someone who is soaking wet, feeding someone who is starving. Beyond that, though, language, i.e. communication, is everything. Any concerted effort to provide assistance is based on being able to communicate with the people being assisted. Being organized also requires having a common language, to understand what people need, to communicate with the authorities. In this crisis, where the linguistic barriers are many and difficult, the role of translators and interpreters is vital.

5. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a full-time translator and interpreter based in Athens, Greece, wife to Nikos and mum to Manos. I am half Greek and half English and grew up on the remote Cycladic island of Amorgos. I studied in Manchester (UK) and in Naples (Italy). I enjoy traveling and am addicted to running! My dream is to run the Antarctic marathon one day.


Farzaneh Tamnanloo

People are always looking for peace, but today’s world is full of violence and cruelty. Everyone must do what they can to help make peace. I can understand the pain of people who have left their homes and have abandoned everything to survive. Many years ago, in my country, Iran, I saw people who were homeless after a severe flood. They had lost everything, but at least they could speak or communicate with others to get help. But refugees, in addition to their dire situation, cannot even discuss their basic needs ‫ with those trying to assist them. So I decided to become part of a Rapid Response Translation Team.

We translate news, information about camps and registration centers, weather reports, and instructions for asylum seekers. I usually translate about 300 to 1000 words per day as part of the Rapid Response Team. I also have an active profile in the TWB Workspace‫.

Language is one of the fundamental human needs. In this critical situation, people are suffering from psychological pressure, as well as the loss of their homes and family members. The suffering caused by not understanding other people’s words, should not be an additional obstacle to refugees. Translation helps to remedy this situation.

I’m a biologist. I have a Master of Science in Plant Developmental Biology. Plant tissue culture is my primary profession. Currently, I am working as an R&D manager of a research center. After finishing an English course, and because of my interest in translation, I started to work as a translator in specialized fields related to biology, medicine, chemistry, and agriculture. I now have more than eight years of translation experience.


Ahmed Samir

Volunteer work brings me a lot of joy and gives me a window to escape from deadline stress and stiff commercial content. Volunteering for a Rapid Response Team with Translators without Borders has given me the chance to really enjoy translation. It has given me the opportunity to communicate with other translators and coordinators across the region and globally. Collaborating with peers turns the process into an online rhythmic dance where everyone translates and edits each other’s work. There is a spirit that unites us as a team; there are vulnerable people and volunteers on the ground, struggling in extreme conditions and we should help them with our tiny in-house efforts.

I mainly edit media roundups, refugee stories and other journalistic material, but I sometimes join in the translation efforts for the Rapid Response Team and exchange information, guidelines and suggestions with other contributors. This dialogue has been constructive. Throughout last year, the project management response was impressive and professional. It provided the necessary help and orientation to raise awareness of the cause we are supporting.  I believe it would be useful to create a proprietary software platform that may further orchestrate the process and enhance consistency and terminology unification. Also, it could speed up the pace of delivery and increase quality.

In the coming year, more work is needed, as the constant flow of refugees on a painful journey to where they think might be a new home continues. Language can be a tool to alleviate their grief. Even a translated sign or welcome note in a registration camp could make a difference and enhance relationships.

I work as a translator in Cairo, but sometimes feel that a linguist is just a small gear in a huge machine, processing languages for profit.  However, volunteer projects or community translation help to remedy this situation.



Sue Fortescue

Translators without Borders

[email protected]