MSU Students Translating for Congolese Refugees

A Sustainable Partnership with the International Rescue Committee in New Jersey

Students in FREN 350 Translation course translated 60 pages of cultural orientation materials into French for Congolese refugees during the fall 2016 semester. This French translation course embedded a service learning component based on a partnership with the International Rescue Committee in Elizabeth. The partnership was established through the Center for Community Engagement's Community Engaged Teaching and Learning Fellows' Program. The students went to Elizabeth to meet Alison Millan, Resettlement Director at the IRC, and Maria Sigalas, who oversees the IRC's interpreters' network in New York City and New Jersey.

To make sure that all the materials the IRC needed could be translated, the MSU Center for Translation and Interpreting initiated an additional partnership between the IRC and a translation professor at the Université de Nice, whose students translated the remaining portion of materials that could not be handled by MSU students within a semester. The combined work of  MSU students and Nice students allowed the IRC to receive 115 pages (6,660 words) of materials translated in French, an in-kind value of around $1,200. Individual MSU students then followed up with the IRC to serve as community interpreters

The following is a testimony of Maria Sigalas, Economic Empowerment Specialist at the IRC: “Interpretation and translation services are vital to the work of the IRC, ensuring that the refugees, asylees, and other immigrant communities we serve are able to communicate with service providers and affording them the ability to make meaningful decisions about their new lives in the United States.  Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim Aibo has played a leading role in fostering the partnership between the International Rescue Committee in New York/New Jersey and the Center for Translation and Interpreting. She has served as a role model for students and volunteers by volunteering to assist herself, while also referring students with language skills to provide interpretation services in both our offices. [She] has also spearheaded the translation of cultural orientation materials into French, allowing many of our clients to gain a better understanding of their rights and opportunities upon arriving in the US. [MSU Center for Translation and Interpreting] has proven to be an invaluable partner for the IRC in NY and NJ and we look forward to our continued collaboration."

The partnership with the IRC will continue with other faculty in the fall of 2017 as the French Program wants to support this initiative and make it sustainable.