By Omowali Isidore | Volatia
Bilingual program support specialist with the city of Roanoke, Katie Hedrick, demonstrates the Volatia video kiosk at the city municipal building. Hedrick speaks with Swahili interpreter Evans Otieno, based in Kenya. | Heather Rousseau photos, The Roanoke Times
Imagine what it would be like to arrive in a country where the primary language spoken is not your mother tongue? It would be very challenging to communicate with others.
This is the case for thousands of Swahili speakers living in Roanoke, VA. How have Roanoke officials bridged the communication gap with Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals? They recognized the importance of language access programs in city government.
Thanks to a recent partnership with Volatia Language Network, Inc. the language barriers are disappearing. Since 2003, Baraka Kasongo, CEO of Volatia, leveraged his knowledge of providing interpreter services to create best practices and a highly responsive, cloud-based interpreter management system, that supports upwards of 280 languages through a network of over 18,000 on-demand linguists around the world to meet this challenge.
According to Ethnologue, there are some 7,139 languages spoken in the world, however, a lack of interpreter services and translated materials on critical topics, keeps important information out of the hands and hearing of LEPs. This could include COVID-19 updates at the community or state level. This can lead individuals who are struggling during this pandemic to be excluded from beneficial programs that supply aid for food, rent, and expenses.
Language access programs in city government give LEPs and non-English speakers an equal opportunity to receive services they deserve, without language serving as a barrier. The process of providing language access that Volatia uses is a very seamless one that makes it easy to marry two worlds that can be lost to one another.
From an interpreter’s viewpoint, this experience is lived every day on the job. Serving as the voice of an LEP client provides a real sense of satisfaction from within. This satisfaction not only stems from sharing the same language but from being able to help both parties forge a long-lasting relationship.
An ever-diverse economy has empowered Volatia to honor the urgency of fulfilling this need. We take this fulfillment to heart through a culture of equity and inclusion, a desire to restore LEP individuals culturally and socially, and to make language access easily implemented through best practices and technology. We invite you to help us meet the challenge of your non-English speaking clients by partnering with us to make social services available to all.