Big Country groups work to break down language barriers with refugees

IRC helps local non-profits overcome language barriers

ABILENE, Texas - The International Rescue Committee is working with local nonprofits to break down language barriers they may face with clients.

Monday, the IRC held a workshop to teach the organizations how to work with interpreters.

The No. 1 challenge agencies in Abilene deal with in language interpretation.

Most refugees in Abilene were forced to leave their country because of political persecution or war.

According to the IRC, it's difficult to get the services they need when they don't speak English.

"So what we're trying to do is help providers and employers in town realize how they can work more effectively with interpreters," said Susanna Lubanga of the International Rescue Committee.

Currently, nonprofits are forced to deal with the alternative.

"It makes it very difficult because we have to draw pictures or we do gestures," said Tonia Talerico, case manager for the Star Program with New Horizons.

Effective communication leads to confidence in the agency.

"Clients don't always have trust in providers if they don't know what's going on," Lubanga said.

According to Lubunga, practice makes perfect.

"Everybody is scared to work across language barriers the first time they do it," she said. "It becomes easier with time. The more you interact with people from a different culture, the more accepting you become and the more you see the value of people from different cultures."

According to the IRC, 43 million people are currently displaced worldwide.

There are about 900 refugees – from 21 different countries – currently living in Abilene.

While the exact number of languages they speak is unknown, six main languages are covered by interpreters and most refugees understand at least one of those languages.

The IRC is always in need of interpreters. To learn more, click here.

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