Found in Translation, located in Boston, Massachusetts, has a two-fold mission:
Our Language Access Fellowship program is designed to level the playing field for talented, driven low-income and homeless bilingual women: It is free-of-charge; includes common-sense supports such as on-site childcare, transportation assistance, mentoring, and career coaching; and leads directly into jobs paying $25/hr+.
Agents of change
The advantage of this approach is that our students and their families are not the sole populations that benefits from our services. We transform program participants into agents of change, helping them to move from the margins of society into positions that enable them to give back to their own communities by providing language access to vulnerable Limited English speakers.
As medical interpreters, our graduates advance equality in healthcare access, improve patient outcomes, and save lives. Further, they reduce healthcare costs and save taxpayer dollars by preventing medical errors and inefficiencies.
Maria Vertkin created Found in Translation, a Medical Interpreter Training, and Job Placement Program. This program was specifically designed to train low-income women to become medical interpreters, who then support equitable care to all demographics of patients through their work.
Seed funding for Found in Translation was provided by the Kip Tiernan Social Justice Fellowship, an initiative of Rosie's Place, in honor of the lifetime work of its founder.
Kip Tiernan, a one-of-a-kind, visionary woman, was a Nobel Prize nominee and a fierce advocate for social justice. She founded Rosie's Place along with dozens of other initiatives and nonprofits.
We created our Interpreter Services, a direct job placement service for graduates, launched in partnership with the Sharewood Project (a volunteer-run clinic through Tufts Medical School.)
Here, Found in Translation graduates hold rotating supportive job placement positions while other graduates fulfill interpreting assignments with any of the 15+ different organizations working with our Interpreter Services to provide language access to hundreds of Limited English Speakers in need across the Greater Boston Area.
It was very clear to us from the beginning that the communities we serve were bearing the brunt of the health and economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We knew that programs like ours were needed more than ever, so pulling back was not an option. Working from home, our staff transitioned all programming online - including the entirety of our medical interpreter certificate training. With the support of our Found in Translation community, we were able to successfully launch an online learning platform, support new students with tech skills and access, and carry out our Class of 2021 program entirely online with a faculty that was 90% alumnae. Having just completed their training in June, our newest alumnae join a community of nearly 300 women who will amplify their success, guide their careers, and join them as partners in providing life-saving language access.
Over the past ten years, Found in Translation has developed from “an idea on a napkin” into a highly effective model, creating a robust alumnae community and helping 35-40 low-income bilingual women each year to turn their linguistic talents into sustainable careers as professional medical interpreters.
We now receive hundreds of applications each year for our program’s 35-40 slots, and our innovative model continues to earn national recognition. Since our inaugural class (where we trained interpreters in 3 languages), we have issued certificates in over 37 different languages, many being Languages of Lesser Diffusion (LLD).
Found in Translation has also grown to an impressive team of 10 staff members and a board of 6, with a depth of experience in the interpreting field, the healthcare sector, nonprofit program management, and design, the education field and more.
We have mobilized hundreds of volunteers; and formed collaborations with institutions such as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (a world-class, Harvard-affiliated hospital and home of the first hospital interpreting department in the US), Tufts Medical School, Cambridge Health Alliance, Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Greater Boston Legal Services, and Volunteer Lawyers Project.
In the coming years, we plan to expanding our programming and our impact. Learn more about our goals here.
The Founder of Found in Translation
Maria Vertkin had lived in three different countries by the time she was a teenager, meaning she was no stranger to being unfamiliar with the language and culture of the country she was living in. Immigration was a reset button on her life; each move erasing her sense of community and language.
She watched her parents struggle as the expertise they had in one country meant nothing in another. Homeless at 16, she learned first-hand the hardships of being a low-income, multilingual woman in America. However, despite the struggles of her childhood, Maria was full of determination. She continued her education, graduated on a Presidential Scholarship, and went on to serve women in similar situations like herself.
As a social worker, Maria met homeless and struggling women with valuable linguistic talent who were facing major barriers to meaningful employment such as systemic discrimination, limited ability to pay for further education, lack of childcare, transportation, and professional networks. Meanwhile, she witnessed hospitals in Boston struggling to find bilingual talent to meet the growing need for medical interpreters.
Limited English speakers were seeking medical help every day and due to language barriers, many healthcare practitioners had difficulty providing them with the quality care they deserve. It was here that Maria discovered an opportunity at the intersection of language access and economic opportunity.
"This is the land of opportunity. It is also the land where surgeons, chemists, school principals, journalists, and news editors go to become "cleaning ladies." Imagine crossing an ocean in pursuit of a better life, only to find that your university degree is now worthless and your skills and knowledge don’t count.
You see newspaper headlines calling you a drain on society. Eventually, you come to view yourself as less than you are and your heritage as a source of shame. Most programs for immigrants in the US are deficit-based, focused on helping immigrants to “improve themselves”.
Found in Translation’s approach is strength-based, leveraging immigrants’ unique skillset of multilingualism."
Found in Translation Founder and Executive Director