Whether it’s news about the pandemic or directions to polling places, the public needs access to accurate and timely information. Yet, major information gaps exist in the U.S. between those who proficiently speak, read or write in English, and those who do not.
Marin County high school senior Caitlin Evers wants to bridge that information gap by offering free and reliable translation services for non-English-speaking communities through the newly formed nonprofit organization Translation Station.
With the help of several bilingual students, Translation Station provides translation services for both Spanish and Mandarin-speaking community members, and the organization is now ready to branch out and offer these services to regional nonprofits.
“As someone who’s taken Spanish classes since seventh grade, I’ve seen the abilities of my peers, and I think they’re an underutilized resource,” Evers says. “Particularly when the Covid-19 pandemic hit; even for someone who speaks English fluently, you see all the information that is rapidly changing so often. I can’t imagine how it felt for someone who doesn’t speak English proficiently.”
From health and safety orders, to information on applying for pandemic-related relief funds, Evers saw a way to help local nonprofits and organizations like her high school reach a larger community through free translation services.
“If you can’t get information to people, you have a disconnection there,” Evers says. “When that gets into medical information, it can be frankly life-altering if you cannot get or understand the information.”
Evers says that statistics on how the coronavirus disproportionately impacts non-English speaking communities in Marin County were an eye-opening inspiration for the nonprofit.
She also points to statistics—such as the fact that more than 20 percent of the U.S. population identified as non-English proficient on the latest Census—to highlight the widespread need for these translations.
When Evers initially reached out to other students at the Branson School in Ross—where she is a senior—about joining Translation Station, she received overwhelming support and more than a dozen volunteers. So far, those volunteers have translated the school’s websites, emails, school magazines and other resources into Spanish.
“We’ve been working closely with a lot of administrators, in particular the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Office and the Admissions Office, which has embraced this opportunity,” Evers says. “The goal is to expand that into other local nonprofits.”
On its website, Translation Station has a form that interested organizations can fill out to detail their specific needs. Evers is also compiling a list of other local nonprofits that she will reach out to in the next year, and she adds that she wants to expand Translation Station’s presence into other Marin County schools.
“A lot of high schools in the Bay Area do have at least one language class that is offered at the school,” Evers says. “[We] can allow these students to engage with their local communities and develop their language skills and communication skills with communities of different backgrounds.”