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Found in Translation Language Access Fellowship Medical Interpreter Certificate Training and Job Placement Program

We empower bilingual women to achieve economic security through their language skills, while fighting disparities in healthcare.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

During this phase, we re-examined alumnae surveys and contributions to our recent strategic planning process with a fresh set of eyes, and identified areas for improvement. Most notably, we observed that broader suggestions for organizational improvement were primarily brought out through conversations/group settings, whereas written surveys largely prompted feedback on individual situations. We now plan to strategically merge these methods, and will update our survey language accordingly.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

This program has such demand that each year, hundreds of women take the initiative to apply for only 35 slots in the class. In interviews, many share with us the experience of watching family members struggle to navigate the healthcare system without language services. This motivates them to “help bridge the gap of language barriers” as interpreters while supporting themselves financially.

Our alumnae are a self-nourishing community, where diverse women accelerate and amplify each other’s success. New interpreters enter our program seeing living examples of where their career might take them. We hire our graduates as instructors/language coaches, others come back as volunteers. Many are leaders in the Alumnae Association, mentoring new interpreters or using their clout at work to open doors and promote their peers. This community creates an environment for success of all, and serves as a way for more experienced interpreters to find their footing as mentors, teachers, and leaders.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Poverty is distributed unequally across race, gender, and ethnicity. As a result, bilingual talent is concentrated in poor communities. Without adequate professional networks, money for tuition, childcare, and transportation, many intelligent and capable low-income women remain trapped in poverty-level employment. Meanwhile, well-paying and in-demand medical interpreting jobs go unfilled, leaving countless without access to critical, life-saving healthcare and costing taxpayers millions.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies estimates racial and ethnic disparities and language barriers to have cost the USA $1.24 trillion between 2003 and 2006 with unnecessary tests, delays, errors, and readmissions - all preventable with trained medical interpreters. By identifying top talent in overlooked poor communities, we meet the needs of the interpreter job market with well-trained, skilled, and compassionate women whose impact on the healthcare system will be profound.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

Our graduates’ economic gains are achieved quickly and sustained over time, resulting in a permanent upgrade in earning and employment prospects. The ripple effect of this prosperity through the women’s families and communities is extensive. With support from BridgeBuilder and other major funders, we project that in 3 years, 370+ women will benefit from $3.7 million in additional income, serving close to 200K patients/year, thus elevating the standards of living and health outcomes for all.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

We consider ourselves to be in “permanent beta”- a state of constant examination, re-evaluation, and improvement. Key to this is our ongoing engagement with alumnae for job placement, professional development etc, making it worthwhile for them to stay engaged, give feedback and partake in regular surveys. These surveys give us quantitative outcomes regarding their economic situations, as well as qualitative info regarding their personal and professional growth. We share this data openly with our alumnae, creating an opportunity for them to voice concerns, influence programming, and steer the direction of the organization. Whenever our programming has improved, (for example, expanding beyond 3 major languages, strengthening our financial literacy curricula, and updating our interpreter services payment structure), it was in direct response to our alumnae’s evolving needs and growing ambitions. Our service model as it is today is a co-creation in partnership with the women we serve.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

The most immediate next steps are to strengthen our infrastructure so that the organization can support the programmatic growth we envision. Our priorities are:
- Strengthen our infrastructure. We have already upgraded our bookkeeping and human resources systems. Next on the agenda is the implementation of Salesforce CRM to replace our spreadsheet-databases, which we are outgrowing
- Increase institutional knowledge by codifying and packaging our programmatic processes, which will enable us to: Maintain quality through staffing changes; position us for replication or meaningfully assisting the communities that frequently reach out to us for help in starting a similar program
- Expand our program cycle to two courses per year, doubling the number of women we serve in Boston
- Begin building partnerships within communities in 3-5 potential cities for eventual expansion

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

In addition to Founder and Executive Director Maria Vertkin, the key staff member in charge of implementing the program is Gaye Gentes, Program Director. Gaye is an accomplished medical and legal interpreter who joined Found in Translation after managing the interpreting department of Tufts Medical Center and later the interpreting service for the Trial Courts of Massachusetts. Gaye brings extensive management and operational experience as well as expertise in medical and legal interpreting.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

With funding through the BridgeBuilder, we would build up organizational capacity and infrastructure to double the number of women we serve in Boston (from one to two cycles each year) and begin the process of identifying 3-5 cities for eventual geographic expansion. We will also continue to empower our grads to the next level of achievement and influence, moving from individual level interventions towards systemic change in healthcare, workforce development, and cross-cultural communication.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

As we continue to prepare for eventual scale, are there resources available to shed light on infrastructure to prioritize investment in? Models similar to ours we could look to?
Much of our impact is in healthcare settings. Are there best practices available on how to capture this information while still respecting patient privacy and protocols?
Moreover, our current outcomes measurement system ably tracks the quantitative success of our graduates, but in order to capture the impact of this powerful community, which has value beyond rising wages and rates of employment, we aim to strengthen this system. Could you point us to potential resources in this area?

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We create opportunity at the intersection of two problems:
1. Poverty and homelessness affect women and minorities disproportionately.
2. Language is a major barrier to health care and demand for medical interpreters is growing rapidly.
Access to a professional medical interpreter is a legally-protected civil right, and the ethical and financial implications of language access in healthcare are especially serious in the Boston area, where ethnic minorities represent more than 50% of the population. By training low-income bilingual women as professional medical interpreters and connecting them to jobs that demand their skills, we bring these two problems together and allow them to solve each other. Recognizing that low-income communities are rich in bilingual talent, we identify women with promising bilingual skills but limited economic resources and empower them to turn their language skills into fulfilling careers earning $25+/hr.
Our Language Access Fellowship seamlessly integrates Medical Interpreter Certificate training, professional development, job placement, and holistic supports, enabling women to succeed in our program and in the interpreting profession. Our Medical Interpreter Certificate training includes:
-140+ hours of medical interpreting instruction, taught by leaders in the field
-On-site childcare, transportation assistance, mentoring, and a commitment to each program participant to address any barrier in the way of her success
-Job skills/Professional Development and Financial Literacy education
Upon completion of the Certificate course, students work with staff to successfully enter the interpreting field. From one year on, most interpreters are stabilized with their first job/s, and continue to use our professional development tools and our alumnae network to work towards bigger goals. At this stage, we focus on one-on-one career coaching, continued job search assistance, and direct job placement through our Interpreter Services.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The target population of our Medical Interpreter Certificate Training program is as follows:
-Women (self-identified)
-Economically Disadvantaged (low-income, homeless currently or in the past)
-Bilingual (our most common languages are Spanish, Arabic, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese, but also includes Hindi, Somali, Swahili, Mandarin, Amharic, Russian, Wolof, Albanian, Italian, Greek, etc.)
-Adults 18+ (We’ve had program participants as young as 19, and as mature as 67. The average age is 35.)

Graduating from our program will result in a permanent upgrade in earning power and employment prospects for participants. Our model disrupts the cycle of poverty and changes lives. As medical interpreters, graduates of our program will enter a field with an median annual wage $58,990 in Massachusetts. Graduates will also have the opportunity to capitalize on their language knowledge, drawing on an existing strength to find a new confidence and sense of self-worth.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Found in Translation is unique in our approach, which represents a paradigm-shift in thinking about workforce talent. As the only free interpreter training program with holistic supports in the US, we are the only viable option for low-income women to enter this field. This gives us exclusive access to a large pool where bilingual talent is most concentrated: low-income communities. We are also the most competitive interpreting program in the US, positioning our graduates as the top choice for employers. Lastly, we provide continued engagement and support to our program participants after graduation. This model allows for wage and employment gains to be sustained over time, an outcome that strongly contrasts with the “Cliff Effect” phenomenon, wherein gains drop off after services are withdrawn. We have created a self-nourishing community that accelerates the success of new interpreters while allowing experienced interpreters to find their footing as mentors, teachers, and leaders.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Full Scale Roll Out: I have already tested and scaled this idea significantly with the intended user base.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Our Language Access Fellowship is currently the entire focus of the organization; an award winning, highly replicable program for which we receive hundreds more applications per year than we can accept, and inquiries for expansion from all around the US, and from as far away as Kenya, asking us to bring this unique opportunity to their communities.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Found in Translation was created in September 2011 by immigrant and social worker Maria Vertkin. In her work, she met homeless and struggling women who had valuable linguistic talents but faced systemic barriers to meaningful employment. Meanwhile, she saw hospitals struggle to find bilingual talent to meet the need for interpreters to serve the linguistic minority population. Maria saw opportunity at the intersection of these two social problems and thus Found in Translation was born.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Found in Translation’s work directly influences the PROSPERITY of our program participants while empowering them to build PEACE in their communities.

Today, the 186 graduates of Classes 2012-2017 cumulatively earn $1.86 million more per year ($10K/person on average) than they did prior to enrollment. The ripple effects of this increase in earnings on a graduate’s family are immeasurable, especially for her children, whose wellbeing is improved by growing up in an economically stable household.

Reflecting the tapestry of cultures present in Boston, the diverse experiences of our interpreters are valuable tools for building a culture of peace. By serving as cultural brokers, interpreters build bridges between differing perspectives and develop multicultural understanding, a sense of human solidarity, and an appreciation for diversity with every assignment. Through increased intercultural interaction with the help of interpreters, prejudices dissipate and respect can be created.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

For our program, we hire expertise in interpreter training (lead instructor and language coaches) on a contract basis. In addition, we harness the power of over 50 volunteers every year in various roles including mentors to program participants, childcare, instructors in various job skills, etc.

We also maintain a wealth of organizational partnerships. Boston Medical Center provides us with free state-of-the-art classroom space. Partners at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center teach an interviewing workshop to our class, while the hospital regularly hires our graduates. Tufts Medical School partners creates post-training opportunities for our graduates, such as our job placement site at the Sharewood Project, a free clinic in Malden. Eastern Bank and its foundation provide financial sponsorship as well as volunteers to teach the financial literacy portion of our interpreter course. We are truly a community-based organization, working together to make Boston a better place for all.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Some of the most in-demand skills exist in an overlooked, underestimated population: immigrant women who are low-income and homeless due systemic barriers. As a strengths-based program, we harness the unique multilingual and multicultural talents and knowledge of this community. Our program participants are a highly-skilled and engaged group, and we empower them to turn their most stigmatized characteristic—their linguistic and cultural background—into their greatest asset in the labor market.

Geographic Focus

The women in our program and the people they serve as interpreters live in the Greater Boston Area.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

A new cohort is welcomed into our Language Access Fellowship over the course of 9 months:

Month 1-2: Application open. Outreach via partner nonprofits, information sessions across Boston.
Month 3-5: Screening applications, interviewing top candidates, assessing linguistic ability and selecting a class.
Month 6-9: Medical Interpreter Certificate training

Upon graduating, Fellows receive ongoing job placement, professional development and supportive services indefinitely.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)

Hi Kelly,
This is such a great program with a unique approach! Have you thought about expanding the program outside of the Greater Boston Area yet, or approaching more hospitals and medical centers to partner with your program? Good luck!

Photo of Kelly Lynch

Hi Shining Hope for Communities!

Thank you so much! Yes, we often receive requests for expansion from other cities across the country and across the world. We hope to someday expand to other sites, but for now our focus is increasing our impact in Boston and perfecting our model for future replicability. At the moment, we are quite well known in the Boston area and have graduates positioned in jobs across most of the major hospitals and medical centers here, but we are always looking to build new partnerships and strengthen those we have.

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