Hiring Interpreters

The daily morning briefing had just begun at the Department of Health. Laci Scott, the Program Manager for Community Health here in Amarillo, uses this meeting six days per week to get everyone in the office on the same page in order to deal with the fast-moving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. The health office staff has been making hundreds of phone calls per day, informing people about positive tests, responding to questions, and following up with quarantined individuals. Not only that, but many of these calls are with employees of local meatpacking plants who do not speak English. The team is working harder than they ever have before, but the language barrier keeps them moving at a snail’s pace.They have no time to spare, because those who test positive cannot go back to work and further risk infecting others.

That’s why, at this particular morning meeting, the entire health office offered an excited round of applause for the interpreters who reported for duty. We have been blessed with the opportunity to hire nine interpreters to work at the health department for the next month!These men and women are helping nurses communicate in Lao, Karen, Burmese, Chin, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, and Somali.

This is an incredible opportunity to bless the city! At the same time, this provides full-time income for many immigrant families who are struggling to bring home paychecks during this time of economic uncertainty. We are grateful to connect the dots and benefit the city in a tangible way during this trying time.

Depth Over Breadth

Over the past few weeks, Ryan has been in dialogue with Amarillo’s Department of Health and with CDC officials in order to identify key communication needs, as well as strategies for how to disseminate information to a complex network of immigrant communities.

During this time of brainstorming, it has been abundantly clear that our network of deep relationships with key refugee leaders has immeasurable value. When the chips are down, it’s relational trust that gets us through. This runs contrary to the public’s expectations of many organizations like ours. So many nonprofit organizations feel pressure to offer large programs filled with anonymous masses of people. Yet relational trust with a few people is vastly more powerful.

When information needs to be shared, we don’t pass out flyers from door to door in refugee-heavy apartment complexes! Instead, we call leaders with whom we’ve built relationships over the previous years. We share with them, and ask them to distribute the news to their networks. Then, when individuals within the Karen or Chin or Somali community learn about the need to stay home from work when they’re sick, they’ll follow the guidance. After all, their own trusted leader told them.

When the city had urgent need for a team of interpreters who had full-time availability, we went back to this same network. These leaders suggested the names of people from their own communities whom they know are capable and professional. Now the trust goes the other way. It’s now me who is trusting the information from those leaders.

And it paid off. Every interpreter has been a big help to the health department. For each one, this is not just a job; it’s an opportunity to help their own communities! Their leaders asked them to serve, and so they are doing so diligently and proudly.

Please, invest your time heavily in the few that God has placed into your sphere. Eventually, you will reap the dividends from your deep investment. Depth over breadth.

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