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.
*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.
Our alumnae are a self-nourishing community, where diverse women accelerate and amplify each other's success.
Our Alumnae Association meets monthly for networking, workshops, and other professional development opportunities.
On-site childcare volunteers keep the children busy as their mothers are in class next door. Once they become established in their careers, some alumnae return to the program as childcare volunteers to support a new cohort of interpreters.
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.
Alumnae participate in a workshop at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine, learning key concepts and terminology to better interpret in dental settings.
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.
Alumnae selfie at Paving the Way, a conference for healthcare interpreters.
Students create online profiles at a LinkedIn workshop with the help of their volunteer mentors
Professional headshots though our volunteer photographer help our graduates stand out in their LinkedIn profiles.
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.
Alumnae meet with our founder, Maria Vertkin, to discuss recent challenges and successes in applying to interpreting jobs in the Boston area.
Alumnae participate in a professional development workshop series, taught by one of their peers. This series, focused on preparing for the National Certification Exam for Healthcare Interpreters, was one of many continuing education opportunities established in response to our alumnae's growing ambitions.
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
We have graduated 186 women over the past 7 years - expanding our program would double our number and substantially increase our impact on the Boston community.
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.
In addition to our staff, we hire experts in the interpreting field as instructors, language coaches and assistant language coaches. In the class of 2017, 46% of our faculty were graduates of our program!
We would not be able to carry out our work without the support of our volunteers! We harness the power of around 50 volunteers every year, who support our program participants as guest lecturers, mentors and childcare volunteers!
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?
Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): 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)
During the feedback phases we were able to think critically about our evaluation processes- both the systems we have in place, and areas where we need to further develop our strategy to better capture the ripple effect of our impact on graduates, their families and communities.
Our review of survey responses from our graduates, along with the helpful resources provided by experts, has resulted in the following new goals that we will prioritize moving forward:
1. Updating our existing participant survey language to better capture/codify program participant ideas for organizational improvements
2. Develop and track proxy indicators for hard-to-measure areas of the impact of our work (such as increases in hiring power)
3. Implement elements of social network analysis to better understand how our programming grows the personal and professional networks and influence of participants
We are also now excited to explore additional opportunities for growth through open source technology.
During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.
Through the Language Access Fellowship Medical Interpreter Training and Job Placement Program, Found in Translation has served 186 women over the past 7 years. All program participants are low-income, and 49% are homeless or have a history of homelessness. 45% are single mothers, and they vary in age from 19 to 67 years old. 100% of alumnae are radiant, bright and driven. They have immeasurable wisdom and cultural insight, represent over 43 different countries, and are speakers of 46 languages from Albanian to Zulu.
As a vibrant, highly-skilled and engaged community, our interpreters accelerate and amplify each other’s success. Graduates are now interpreting at some of the state’s finest hospitals, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Mass General, and Tufts Medical Center. Some have managerial and hiring power, and open new doors for their peers, while others are coordinating interpreter services as dispatchers or managing the interpreting departments of entire school districts. Many are working at interpreting agencies, which provide the flexibility of freelance/per-diem work. Employment with remote interpreting has allowed graduates to work from home and maintain financial security through life changes such as a new baby, taking care of a relative, or experiencing disability or illness.
Wage and employment gains of Found in Translation graduates are achieved quickly and sustained over time, resulting in a permanent upgrade in earning power and employment prospects. The effect of increased earnings is profound, but our impact extends beyond what numbers can capture.
A graduate of our program will experience:
-Security and dignity of wages that are commensurate with her ability and need.
-A chance to reclaim a sense of mastery and competence lost when she left her homeland.
-An opportunity to connect with and take pride in her cultural and linguistic heritage rather than see it as a barrier
Quotes from our alumnae:
“The program has helped me see the potential in me. Through Found in Translation I have discovered that with hard work, I can become my own boss. My success as a Medical Interpreter was made possible by a unique, dedicated and committed team of Found In Translation staff, Instructors from different professional medical backgrounds, language coaches and volunteers, all for free! Found in Translation gave me a foundation to start off a career that I never thought I could afford. My skills have enabled me bring smiles to limited English speakers by making communication easier at their various service providers. This has been an eye opener to other opportunities through LinkedIn that I continue to explore!" - Delfine, Class of 2015, Swahili Interpreter
“If I had come to this country and discovered something like Found in Translation when I first got here, in 1992, I could have a different life, a better life - I'm not referring to money, even a secure income would be nice; but it was the encouragement - it was that I was told: ' Yes this country needs what you have. You have a value and this is what makes all the difference in the world" - Serafima, Class of 2014, Russian Interpreter
“(Found in Translation) helped me to learn the proper protocol in interpreting field. It enhanced my extra income, worked on my own time, and also this was one of the job I loved, because I can help people with language barriers to fulfill their wishes! For almost 30yrs. of living in USA I never thought I would get a job that paid me more than 20 dollars an hour. But after I graduated … now I get paid more than that” - Kim, Class of 2016, Vietnamese Interpreter
“Because of Found in Translation, I was able to officially start my career as a certificate-holding medical interpreter. It's such a sense of gratitude to be able to help everybody and to be able to get up and be the person that I used to be when I first came to this country when I was a little girl and I interpreted for my parents. It brings me back and it puts the biggest smile in my heart to know that I helped someone and I have bridged a gap (a very uncomfortable gap) for a lot of people. Because I was able to officially start my career as a medical interpreter, my life has changed significantly. I am able to give my daughter a stable life, I am able to give her something to be proud of me for. I can teach her about hard work, perseverance, patience and persistence. I smile, because I am grateful for everything Found in Translation has done.” - Lina, Class of 2015, Spanish Interpreter
One of our graduates from the Class of 2013 is now a full time medical interpreter at a local hospital and has earned her national certification credential.
Found in Translation's impact would not be possible without our partnerships with many local and national organizations to. Our partners provide referrals for our applications, interpreting work for our graduates, funding, professional development resources for our staff and graduates, and expertise for our organization.
Employment rates have been consistent since we have optimized our model so that most interpreters are hired by 3-months post-grad, and by one year post-grad, virtually every graduate who is available to work is employed.
Our graduates earning gains are achieved quickly and sustained over time, resulting in a permanent upgrade in earning power and employment prospects.
Wages continue to rise with every class as we open new doors through partnerships and employers.
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:
-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.
Graduating Class of 2017
Our graduates speak over 40 languages, and call at least 43 different countries home.
Each year we train 10-15 languages in our Medical Interpreter Certificate Training program, though we receive applications from many more! In 7 years, our graduates have earned certificates in over 37 different languages.
Close to half of our graduates are mothers, and many are single mothers. Cumulatively, our graduates are mothers to over 270 children.
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.
The Found in Translation cohort at the annual Paving the Way to Healthcare Access conference for medical interpreters in Boston
Snapshot of interpreters from the Class of 2016
Program participants go over key anatomy and physiology concepts with the guidance of a fellow alumnae.
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.
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)