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Communicating with Communities is a critical component in delivering aid during a crisis or disaster. It is a need, just as food, water, blankets and shelter. It’s such a great need that if wrongly delivered, it can complicate other responses to the crisis or disaster.  In communications with communities, language matters. Words of Relief is the only translation crisis relief network intended to improve communications with communities when the crisis response aid workers and affected populations do not speak the same language.

One of the main components of WoR is the Spider Network .We created a Spider Network of 11 people, representing 11 languages, from 11 Kenyan geographical areas that are frequently affected by disasters. The group was trained last year and we recently conducted refresher training. As a result of the refresher training, we saw a great improvement on speed and quality of translation in a simulation exercise that was conducted afterwards. This was a great encouragement to us since it showed that our team is well skilled to respond during a crisis or disaster. Most members from this team have been helping with translations in their community For example, Abraham Erot from Turkana County helps government officials whenever they need to communicate with the community.

In our quest to break the language barrier and save lives through translation, we created a Rapid Response Team (RRT) for the Nigeria elections. The RRT were ready to translate any messages in case of unrest/conflict during the elections. They did an online orientation and joined our Skype group to work as a team. The group was very excited about this cause and although translations were not needed in the end, the team kept in touch and updated each other in the TWB Skype group.

In other news… Mike Levin, a journalist for the Global South Development Magazine wrote about how TWB’s Words of Relief helped with the Ebola virus in West Africa.


Also in April our WoR team went to the field to shoot a promotional video.  We went on location to a project at Kibwezi (Eastern Kenya) with our partner, the Kenya Red Cross. We met young mothers mostly with breastfeeding babies. When we presented breastfeeding posters in Kikamba (language spoken by the locals in this place), the women were so excited to get this crucial information in their own language. Their faces radiated as they read loudly and discussed with Maggie, a KRC nutritionist. They continued to say that on that day they learnt the importance of exclusive breastfeeding. It was clear that the community is hungry for information even though it is available but in the wrong language. At the health clinic where we were shooting the video, I noticed that one lady who had brought her child for immunization had a booklet which had lots of information about vaccines, first aid and breastfeeding. Unfortunately, this booklet was all in English and this mother, as most in Kenya, cannot read or understand English. Hence the need to get the word out, that language really matters!


Women reading a poster in Kikamba

As the month came to an end, Words of Relief proved to be of great importance in the response to the devastating Nepal earthquake. We created a Rapid Response Team which worked and is still working with us day and night, translating crisis and disaster messages needed to save lives. Lots of messages have been translated into Nepali and disseminated to the affected population. It’s been such a relief to the Nepalese to receive the information they so desperately need in their language.

As Jacobo Quintanilla, Community Engagement Adviser for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said “Communicating with communities in their own language is vital to the effectiveness and adequacy of relief efforts. It is essential if we are committed to reach people with life-saving information, practical advice and, very importantly, if we want to listen to what they say. For example, having our #familylinks website in Nepali is key to let Nepalese people know we can help restoring contact with missing ones.”

Tune in next month for more about our focus groups discussions!

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