Social Enterprise Brings Multilingual University Students to Nonprofits

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

Social Enterprise Brings Multilingual University Students to Nonprofits


Any bilingual person can find the OK word or the right word translating on the fly, but the better word, or the most precise word separates those who translate and interpret as a discipline.

Being bilingual isn't enough, Mary Jayne McCullough told seven interns around a table recently at Global Wordsmiths, a year-old social enterprise she owns in East Liberty. "If it were a matter of matching word for word, technology would have been able to figure out how to do accurate translations by now."

She and program manager Meredith Bapir have trained 12 students from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University to intern for two semesters with five nonprofit organizations in 15 languages including Spanish, Arabic, French, Nepali, Bengali, Hindi, Chinese, German and Russian.

The nonprofits don't pay for the interns. They get college credits or a stipend the company draws from its own revenue from paying clients. Each 23 weeks, a new cycle of interns will pair with a new cycle of partner organizations.

One current partner is Friends of Farmworkers, a 35-year-old organization that is new to Pittsburgh. It has branched out from pro bono representation of migrant farm workers to representing low-income immigrants who work in restaurants, home health care, landscaping and other labor.

Matthew Lamberti, supervising attorney in the Pittsburgh office, said staff can handle Spanish in-house but that, increasingly, immigrants need legal services in other languages.

The interns will translate pocket-sized know-your-rights handouts and flyers, which are already in Spanish, for people who speak French, Chinese, Arabic, Bengali, Hindi and Russian.

"We distribute them in libraries, on public bulletin boards, in vestibules of restaurants, laundromats, in faith communities with immigrant populations," he said. "Whether demand will increase remains to be seen, but word of mouth is golden."

"We constantly need interpreters," said Leslie Aizenman, director of Refugee and Immigrant Services for Jewish Family and Community Services, which has four Global Wordsmiths interns who speak Spanish, Arabic and Nepali. "It's really nice [Global Wordsmiths] acknowledge how much nonprofits need them."

Four interns will translate tax forms for low-income clients of Just Harvest, a nonprofit that helps low-income people get food and as much as they can in tax refunds.

"The earned income tax credit is a great anti-poverty measure, and a lot of people don't know about it," said Kristie Weiland Stagno, tax campaign coordinator for Just Harvest. "It can be, for some families, up to half their taxable income and we want to make sure they are claiming it. …

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