Dignity through language

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By Janet Homan, volunteer 

The food banks in the Trussell Trust Network work hard to ensure that their services are accessible to everyone in their community. Language should never be a barrier to receiving support when it is needed. Over the summer, a group of volunteers got together to improve the number of resources available to people for whom English isn’t their native language. 


Building the team 

Following calls from food banks from the network for the packing list to be available in a range of languages, a new volunteering opportunity was created and an amazing, diverse group of people stepped forward to give their time…albeit remotely and via Teams calls.  As we have all found during the pandemic, technology and the power of a PC or laptop have transformed how, and where we work.  In many cases, the same is true for our volunteers with our translators living across the length and breadth of the country.  Many were native speakers in the languages we were seeking; others were fluent in the languages after studying them at university or in the relevant country. 

 After completing online informal group interviews with all those who applied for the roles, we moved to the process of translating nine forms, lists and guides regularly used by food banks to share with people they help.    


The logistics 

Translating so many documents into different languages was a little tricky!  After sharing the documents with the volunteers and giving them time to complete the translations, a separate Teams call for each language was arranged with each group.  The calls meant that as a team we could compare the translations for the specific languages and iron out any nuances that the different translators had used. We hosted some fantastic discussions around the most appropriate language or grammar to be used, and our team felt humbled by the incredible knowledge and commitment of our volunteers.  


The feedback 

I’m pleased to say that after several months of remote calls and iterations of food-related documents the final translations have now been shared with the network, for the food banks to easily access.  Feedback to date has been positive with many food banks feeling that they are offering a little more dignity and compassion to those needing support at a difficult time.  Another amazing example of the willingness of people to answer the call for those most in need.