An interpreting and translation service has offered 15 free community interpreting courses to qualify Ukrainian speakers based in Northern Ireland.
The Diversity NI opportunity allows training so interpreters can help Ukrainian refugees navigate communication barriers when arriving here.
“I wondered what I can do to really add value – so I thought, we’re going to open up 15 places and support that way,” explains company Managing Director Paolina Hawthorne.
“Those arriving really need to have understanding of what the system is, how it works, the education system, the housing system, what letters they’re receiving, what those letters mean.”
Paolina is keen for the trained interpreters to then work within their communities.
“A lot of them have a lot of passion for it, wanting to know how to help, how to do it properly. Because unfortunately when you have people in a lot more vulnerable position, there are also a lot of people who take advantage of the situation.
“What I really wanted to do is that we properly train interpreters who know the boundaries of the profession and who are there to really abide by those boundaries.
“I have seen how a lot of those [people] coming to Northern Ireland flourish and have a very successful future.
“They’re such great members of the community and really enrich the culture of Northern Ireland. I really believe this will be the case for Ukrainian refugees too.”
Paolina has lived in Northern Ireland for 15 years and started Diversity NI 12 years ago. In that time the company has grown to one of the largest interpreting and translation services in Northern Ireland, offering a database of over 700 fully qualified interpreters over 75 languages.
She says being able to be understood cannot be underestimated.
“Letting those people to know they can be heard and understood… some have been through really horrific events. It’s just an honour for me; I feel really privileged to be in a position and a situation where I can help.”
Mariia Losieva is no stranger to Northern Ireland – her partner lives here – but her reason for being here currently is due to events in Ukraine.
She moved here in February and is delighted to work with Diversity NI in helping give her fellow countrymen a voice.
“I love my job and I’m skilful at my profession, so I am happy to continue the things I used to do,” says the teacher of languages and foreign literature.
“Now I totally understand that it’s great when you live in a country, and you speak the language of this country. I can totally understand my countrymen coming here and they do not speak the language and they need interpreters.
“People are fleeing the war to all countries; at some stage they do not think how they will survive there. Probably their main priority is to just to survive, be safe, but then many questions appear.
“In this case, my skills as an interpreter are very important now, at least I can help my countrymates this way.”
Mariia describes the best interpreter as being ‘invisible,’ something she learned while studying at university.
“My task is to make the impression that they’re talking themselves, to make myself invisible. If they get the impression that they’re just talking to each other, my job is done.”
Clearly loving her role that allows her to work in multicultural environments, she says every day is a school day.
“I’m 39, I’ve been working as an interpreter for the last 20 years and it is a never-ending process, you’re constantly learning something. You’re constantly talking to people from different countries, different personalities. You’re constantly upgrading yourself.
“For me, it’s interesting and satisfying to be a bridge between people.”
For more information on Diversity NI, see www.diversityni.co.uk