Story by Daniel Kim, International Services and SAF Associate, Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Red Cross Mission is to provide relief to victims of armed conflict and disaster, and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Through our International Services programs we further the global reach of the Red Cross by educating the community about these efforts and by facilitating communication among new arrivals to the US, the organizations that serve them, and families facing communication barriers caused by language, armed conflicts and emergencies. The ability to serve those with limited English ability, especially newly arrived residents, enables the American Red Cross not only to assist these families and help meet their basic needs, but also to fulfill the Red Cross mission and principles by preparing migrants and refugees to respond properly in times of crisis, disaster or other emergencies.
The Global Language Bank Internship Program at the West Michigan American Red Cross chapter was created with the desire to provide a high quality internship opportunity to international college students and translators/interpreters interested in working with English as a Second Language (ESL) clients in emergency and disaster situations. Services to these individuals are provided free of charge. In addition, we have created a cultural competency book to provide assistance both within the Chapter (to other American Red Cross departments such as Service to the Armed Forces, Disaster and Volunteer Services) and to other non-profit humanitarian service providers.
Currently, we have 13 interns who collectively speak more than 15 languages and dialects. The Language Bank provides in-person and over-the-phone interpretation as well as written translations. Services the Global Language Bank will provide include translating official documents and interpreting in settings where ESL clients may need assistance, such as interviews. The interns will also support the outreach efforts of the American Red Cross and help build a more culturally aware volunteer and staff force through the cultural competency book. Through the work of multilingual and cross-cultural interns/volunteers, the Global Language Bank promises to be a very valuable contribution to the humanitarian work of the American Red Cross and the International Red Cross Movement.