Linguistic barriers are a longstanding problem in humanitarian operations. A 2011 report from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Disaster Relief 2.0, cited lack of translation support as a “perennial hidden issue…delaying critical communications and disenfranchising affected populations.”
In addition to ensuring that vital information is both accessible and comprehensible, linguistically appropriate communications can reassure affected communities, increase trust in aid workers, and effectively promote behavior change. However, the majority of international aid nonprofits are equipped only in major world languages that often do not match those of the affected population. Similarly, official government languages may be spoken or understood by only a minority of a country’s citizens.
The only service of its kind, Words of Relief (WoR) bridges existing language gaps to:
WoR was first deployed in 2014 in Kenya and later during the Ebola crisis where WoR translators produced more than 100 posters, social mobilization messages, Ebola videos, and maps translated into 30 languages.
We will create a Words of Relief package for potential partners and funders. We will fully define the Words of Relief tools for organizations who are looking for better language solutions during crisis, and we will package it professionally.
We will market the packages broadly in person and virtually; we will increase number of users of these services in five months; triple in 9 months.
In 2016 TWB were awarded our ‘Journey to Scale’ grant in 2016. Their pathway to scale involves developing the platform to meet emergent needs (such as on-the-ground interpretation and voice capabilities), developing new and more effective outlets for disseminating vital information directly to affected populations, promoting increased use of the platform across a broader spectrum of humanitarian NGOs, and implementing a new business model to ensure the long-term sustainability of its services.
The first step was to establish which languages crisis-affected people speak and understandView
The team are now focusing on developing and rapidly scaling up their support to overcome language barriers in crises in places like Bangladesh.View
TWB have been gathering evidence for effective communication and developing training resources to better support language service providers in crises.View
Cholera in Yemen, famine in South Sudan and slavery in Bangkok - the commonality across these stories is lack of free access to trusted information.View
The team share their first blog on their scale journey.View
For one refugee in Greece, the words to describe her illness were lacking because there were no interpreters at the hospital she was taken to.View
The Diffusion grant allows TWB to explore different financing paths, especially the development of packages for interested agencies.View
Rebecca Petras, deputy director for Translators without Borders, talks about the successes, challenges and next steps for their project so far.View
Mike Levin, a journalist for the Global South Development Magazine writes about how TWB’s Words of Relief helped with the Ebola virus in West Africa.View
Watch the team's video about their work in Kenya.View
One piece of Words of Relief is the Spider Network of rapid response community translators, who can translate from English/Swahili into Kenyan regional languages in key geographic areas prone to disaster.View
The team have been creating greater awareness that language matters during a disaster.View
All our Journey to Scale projects have been keeping video diaries of their progress. Watch them to see how the different projects have grown.
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