Empowering Refugees: Acolad's Interpreting Program

Acolad's Interpreting Task Force, has been operating in the Netherlands to handle government interpretation demands for asylum seekers. The initiative seeks native speakers of in-demand languages, including former refugees.

date iconJune 20, 2024     tag iconInterpreting

The interpreting program, launched in 2015, offers training to refugees that not only fulfills asylum seekers interpreting needs, but also gives them the chance to start a career as professional interpreters. The initiative has been recognized as an excellent example of employee inclusion and community impact.

The program continues to grow, with expectations of doubling the number of in-house interpreters by the end of 2024 to address crucial government needs, as the Netherlands faces a record surge of 70,000 new asylum petitions. In 2024 alone, the most common nationalities among asylum seekers, and following family members, in the Netherlands are Syrian, Iraqi, Turkish and Somali.

Empowering Refugees

Basel Somey emigrated from Syria to the Netherlands in 1996 seeking asylum. Having overcome cultural and language differences, he joined Acolad’s Interpreting Task force as an interpreter, helping others understand their new surroundings. "This program gave me a reason to keep going," Basel says. "Now I can use what I've been through to help others who are just starting out. Interpreters can make a huge difference; they don't just translate words; they translate feelings and help people feel understood.”

Acolad's pioneer program encourages former refugees like Basel to use their language skills to become interpreters. Just like a remote interpreting team, where people from all over the world help others connect.

What’s Next as Human Meets AI?

Take a closer look at what is driving the increased demand for interpreting.

“What’s so different about our program is the fact that our taskforce works daily with a reality and context they all know far too well”, explained Nancy Hahnel, Acolad’s General Manager of the Netherlands. The program was created as a solution for the interpreter shortage that afflicted the Netherlands’ efforts to receive and welcome asylum seekers.

Nancy Hahnel's team achieved impressive results by creating a system where they trained and hired migrants as interpreters. These former migrants were very invested and did well in their new jobs. This was a perfect solution. After all, they already knew the languages and cultures that were most in demand and understood the difficulties faced by asylum seekers because they had been through similar challenges themselves.

The Remote Interpreting Task Force’s History

  • Established in 2015, the program helps the Dutch government and employs former refugees and asylum seekers as interpreters.
  • The task force focuses on helping refugees and asylum seekers navigate culture, language, and legal proceedings in central Europe.
  • The task force was reintroduced in 2023 to continue the work started in 2015.
  • Reestablished in record time, aided by former asylum seekers who entered the linguistic profession after undergoing the program's learning and development opportunities.
  • The team successfully manages the Netherlands' language needs by training and supplying new interpreters themselves, who excelled in their roles due to their knowledge of the languages and cultures at the center of the migrant influx.

Future Impact

With a unique strategy of upskilling newcomers, talent development, and workforce integration, Acolad's task force is recognized as a true win-win scenario. It improves crucial language access and creates important economic opportunities for former refugees, all while significantly impacting the Netherlands' community.

As Basel says, "I used to feel lost in translation, but now I help others find their way." There are many more stories like Basel's, and they all show the power of helping others and how communication can change the world.

date iconJune 20, 2024     tag iconInterpreting

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