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

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

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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


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