Liz Smith, a Food Bank volunteer, was in-taking a client who spoke only limited English. She asked the man whether he would like a translator for the interview. He insisted that he would rather have his friend would translate for him.
The two men left and parted ways, sitting in separate areas of the waiting room with their respective families. That’s when Liz realized they hadn’t known each other at all—they met at the food bank that day and wanted to help each other.
Staff and volunteers at The Crisis Center try to make each visit as comfortable as possible for every client. But some barriers still arise. Language is a major hurdle for some clients, even those that speak English relatively well.
Some volunteers translate for clients, when available.
Dedi Walker, a former Spanish teacher, has volunteered at the food bank for years. She says that language barriers can mean it is harder for someone to ask for help.
“A lot of our clients do speak English they are just a lot more comfortable speaking in their first language,” she says. “It makes it easier for them to get their needs met.”
She says it is comforting for clients to know they can use their own language to communicate with staff and volunteers at the Crisis Center.
When volunteers are not around, The Crisis Center uses Language Link, which connects clients with over-the-phone translation services. Every year, as the Crisis Center grows, so does the number of calls placed to this service.
While it is not as efficient as having a volunteer translate in person, the phone call software is critical when volunteers who do not speak a particular foreign language are not present.
Anyone is welcome to seek help at The Crisis Center, no matter what language they speak. With special thanks to friendly strangers, dedicated volunteers, and translation technology, language barriers are an issue that The Crisis Center will continue to try to overcome.