Benefits of a Community Interpreter Program

While there are certain risks associated with using interpreters who are part of the refugee community, there are also noted benefits both to your organization and to the interpreters to be taken into consideration. After reading the benefits, please continue to read the section on challenges.

  • Cost: Using community interpreters instead of professional, salaried interpreters reduces cost for the organization.
  • Availability of languages: Using interpreters from the refugee community means that there will naturally be interpreters available for the clients in the languages that you need. For example, our office in Thailand has an excess of Urdu interpreters, while the local UNHCR office is struggling to find Urdu interpreters, which is creating a challenge for them with their caseload due to this limitation.
  • Empowerment: Legal aid is founded on the principle of empowering our clients. Learning a new profession, being a part of the interpreter community, and adding value to the organization are all empowering. They are also able to use a skill to work during a time when they feel very vulnerable, and this allows them some sense of empowerment.
  • Livelihood: If you are able to compensate your interpreters, then they are able to make a small amount of money, which helps them immensely while going through the refugee status determination (RSD) process.
  • Interpreter mental health: Anxiety and depression are common while going through the RSD process and/or awaiting resettlement. Working as an interpreter helps to keep interpreters engaged in an activity, and they also feel that they are helping their fellow refugees, which often leads to a heightened state of emotional well-being.
  • Skills: The Interpreters are building skills that can be transferred to the country in which they are resettled.
  • Cultural and country of origin information (COI) exchange: The legal advocates are often able to learn more about countries of origin and those cultures by interacting with the interpreters.