Community Interpreter’s Safety
A few years ago, I arrived at an interpreting assignment. The social worker hadn’t arrived, yet, so I sat in my car and waited right outside the limited English speaker’s door. When the social worker came, we went and knocked on the front door, but no one was home. Because we had worked together for quite some time, we decided to sit in my car while we waited for the client.
It was hot, so we locked the doors and turned the car on to keep cool. We were busy chatting when I noticed a couple sitting on the front steps of our limited English-speaking client’s home. They were staring at us. I let the social worker know what was happening since she was sitting facing me and couldn’t see them. Within minutes a couple of men came walking down the street, agitated, in the direction of the other couple. The four began to watch us intently, questioning who we were and what we were doing there. I didn’t move the car.
I didn’t want to be intimidated. We were there to give a family the services they deserved. Things changed quickly when the two men began to walk towards my car, one walked behind the car to come around my side, and the other walked towards the passenger’s side. I quickly pulled off. The social worker and I, both quite shaken up, called the client from the main road.
We explained what we had experienced and asked if she knew who would do such a thing, she didn’t. We rescheduled to meet at the social worker’s office and waited until the coast was clear to circle back to pick up her car.
I share this story to shed light on the challenge’s community interpreters face every day. Community interpreters do not sit in the comforts of a hospital, court, or school. They are on the front lines of our industry meeting clients right where they live- many times in rougher parts of town. They are the bridge between the needs of families and the providers who could meet them. Community interpreters are dispatched to violent crimes, families in crisis and the likes; many times with no idea what they are about to encounter.
At Be Moore Interpreting, we appreciate and value our community interpreters. We recognize their contribution to the community and created a list of safety norms for them to use. We are sharing this list with the community at large because these tips are valuable to us all.
Safety in the Community
When we call you, ask questions about the assignment. We may not have the answers at that moment, but we will get them for you.
If the neighborhood is known for unsafe activity, please drive by before you park. Consider sitting on the main road, in a heavily lit area until the English-speaking client arrives.
If parking near the location is safe, park where you can see the entrance (that way you don’t miss the English-speaking client when they arrive).
Do NOT get distracted by your phone or something else; be aware of what’s happening around you.
Keep your car on- if at all possible.
Keep the doors locked and windows closed.
Keep your music low, so that you can hear what’s happening around you.
Communicate any concerns you may have to us.
Safety in a Home
If you don’t already know, ask the English-speaking client what the context of the meeting is? Are you meeting with a victim, a perpetrator, a family, etc.
Be aware of your exits; sit where you can access them quickly.
Be mindful of bedroom or bathroom doors.
Do not let anyone block your exit. Try to sit where you are safest.
Have your phone and keys ready, leave any personal items- i.e., purses or bags in the car.
We know this isn’t an exhaustive list of tips to use while in the community. But it is a start. This list allows you to be aware of what’s happening and hopefully keeps you safe because you are needed, valued, and appreciated. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our office.