What do the following events have in common:

  • Earthquake in Haiti
  • Revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya
  • Earthquake and tsunami in Japan

All of these events represent human suffering, and catastrophic loss of life and property. All of these events have deeply affected people’s lives forever. All of these events encompass masses of people who need help. All of these events have victims who need to communicate with others who reach out to help them.

I’m sure you’ve heard of a non-profit organization called Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). They are an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. Their membership consists of volunteer physicians who travel to disaster-torn and war-torn places to provide urgent medical care.

I’d like to introduce you to a lesser-known, but also important non-profit organization called Translators Without Borders (TWB)/Traducteurs San Frontières (TSF).  Like MSF, volunteer translators from TWB work with organizations worldwide to provide important communication assistance. Here is a description from their website:

The not-for-profit association Translators Without Borders (TWB) was created in 1993. It was originally meant to provide free translations for Doctors Without Borders. Gradually TWB extended its help to further ONGs and associations. Today this pro bono work assists organisations such as Médecin du MondeAIDESFIDHSecours PopulaireHandicap International or the International Alliance of Independent Publishers.

Communicating effectively with disaster victims is something that we take for granted. We see relief efforts taking place all over the world – countries sending people and equipment to help. Rarely do we stop and think, “Gosh, I wonder how they talk to each other? I wonder how they read and create various signs and posters?” I wonder how the doctor is able to collect vital information about a patient or reassure an injured person’s family members?” By assisting with communication, Translators Without Borders provides a critical, but often overlooked, service for all types of relief efforts.

I know a number of people on the board of TSF. They are serious about their work and committed to making a difference in the world. I encourage you to support their efforts by going to the TWB  home page and clicking the Donate button.

Communication is vital and you can help.


Val Swisher