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Interpreter: Living For Others

Interpreter: Living For Others

As an interpreter, Muhammed is able to feel the deepest feelings of the migrants he is assisting. He is a 'bridge-builder' for the people until they can speak Turkish and manage to communicate on their own.

Muhammed (28) is a person who has dedicated himself to help other people. He has been working for the Turkish Red Crescent from the onset of the Syrian crisis to assist Syrian refugees. For the last 8 months, he has been working as an Arabic-Turkish translator in the EU-funded Turkish Red Crescent Kilis Community Center. We asked him about his experiences as an interpreter for a humanitarian organization.

How does it feel to be working and living in a border area close to a crisis?

First of all, living and working in a place close to the border area is very difficult for everyone. On one side, you are trying to save people from the bombs; on the other side, you are trying to protect yourself. I remember one day one of the bombs fell just 10 meters from my place. I thought I was going to die, I heard a noise. I expected death.

My family is also worried, but when you work as a part of Red Cross – Red Crescent Movement, you begin to “live for others”. You make people smile, give them hope. You become happy when people are happy. 

Beneficiaries of Community Centers are quite affected by the negative situation and trauma brought by the war. How do you work as interpreters, in what situations do you have the most difficulties?

As interpreters, we are not active only inside the Community Centers but are also active on the field. We are involved in any case containing a referral. Field, psychosocial support etc.

We participate in the “Case Management” training given by Turkish Red Crescent when we first start to work in the organization. We are given information about dos and don’ts during house and field visits. It is still difficult, though.

In the first weeks, I was using my gestures undeliberately; however, I should not have shown my feelings, especially in psychosocial support. You should be calm, unresponsive and only translate no matter how severe or intense the story is. It is because something that is strange for you can be normal for a person telling the story.

The other important point for us is that we can understand the deepest feelings of the person, because we know the native language she or he uses and they transfer all feelings through that language. No matter how much experience we will gain, we will understand their feelings a little bit more than other people. We are the first ones who notice whether they are sad or their lives have become better thanks to the Community Centers support.


What kind of changes do you witness on the beneficiaries?

Once we went to the home of a beneficiary who lost his hearing ability when he was a child. We talked to his 2 sons and 1 daughter. We took him to the hospital under the Special Needs Fund (SNF) and provided him with hearing aid. He said, it was the first time he could hear the sound of prayer’s calls and began to talk gradually. We enabled somebody to gain hearing ability who was not used to hear voices. At the same time, he began to talk as well.

Generally, the most challenging situations occur during psychosocial interviews. Likewise, the greatest emotional impact is also manifested in psychosocial interviews. We went to the house of a 5-year-old child who was being abused by his father and bullied by his friends. He was scared of people, especially elderly people. Community Center psychologists worked very sensitively, very carefully. They made regular meetings with the child. After some time passed, he began to ask about the coming meeting. He began to talk more, and smile more.

We are feeling the deep meaning of the Community Centers’ social media motto “one touch thousands of lives” as Community Centers staff.

How does it feel to work at the Turkish Red Crescent and to be part of Red Cross – Red Crescent Movement?

Working in National Societies and being part of such a big movement change your perspective on life. There are many lives, many people and you are in a way involved in their lives.

You should know their life and their culture in order to touch their life. Then you should have empathy and communicate with them, as well as provide mutual trust. Without trust, neither you touch their lives, nor they open their doors to you.

One of the most important points we have succeed in at the Community Centers is our efforts to provide mutual communication and trust.