Volunteering during the pandemic

July 8, 2020

Over the past three months I have been continuing in my volunteering role as an interpreter (Kurdish Sorani) but this time interpreting sessions have been shifted to the form of telephone interpreting because of the pandemic. For ASSIST staff member Hannah, having an interpreter for welfare calls has been a lifeline. For me it was a relatively new experience because I am used to face to face interpreting sessions. I feel it is crucial volunteering work in this time of COVID-19.

I can say that this type of interpreting requires extra effort in addition to the interpreting task. Although most of sessions were done in a repetitive manner, there were some situations where I needed to put in efforts to overcome some challenges e.g. the client is not in a quiet venue, client's voice volume or clarifying my interpreting role for the clients. Sometimes when the conversation cannot be proceed smoothly it was difficult for me to maintain using direct speech in telephone interpreting because I was feeling that the client was directing requests to me.

However, I found there are many advantages of doing telephone interpreting:

  • I was happy that I have been able to help people from our community with any situations every single day. And I was happy a lot that most of the clients who we have been in touch with were feeling well and safe.
  • I have developed throughout this experience, my own strategies to deal with any problems of difficulties in communicating with the other parties (e.g. interrupting the speakers, asking for clarifications, avoiding side-talk, and explaining the interpreter role).
  • This experience has stopped me feeling isolated because of what the pandemic created, and I felt I am part of something important.
  • Doing telephone interpreting in average 6 sessions/hour per week developed my confidence and my listening skills. This practice enabled me to do some paid telephone interpreting work with other organisations.
  • I am proud that I have been able to solve some problems and I helped ASSIST to find new ways to keep their services running throughout the pandemic. I hope that I have been supportive not just to the people who access ASSIST Sheffield services, but to the staff too.

Jwan Othman
ASSIST Interpreter Team