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Volunteer translators support refugees

Words by Smiley Team

Perhaps more than ever, the Ukrainian language is thriving. As volunteers offer their language skills to spread awareness and help Ukrainian people flee the war, it's clear the language is bringing people together.

A network of volunteers for charities and community groups across the globe are coordinating translations for those who need them, such as Charity Translators, founded by Cari Bottois.

Cari describes it as a “network who offer advice and guidance to charities about languages, translation, and interpreting.” She explains that, when possible, volunteers will offer to support translation projects.

Since the war in Ukraine began, Charity Translators started pulling together all the resources we could find that might be useful to refugees fleeing the war. This included publishing a web page, links for Ukraine, and joining together with professional associations in the UK to coordinate efforts. 

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In the UK, visa applications need certified translations of official papers such as birth and marriage certificates, so accessible services which provide translations of these documents are also vital for refugees. When refugees arrive in the UK, they might rely on interpreting to communicate, whilst others access English as a second language classes and materials to gain English language skills, which are often offered by libraries. 

Anastasiia Liubychenko, a student from Ukraine, has been working to translate Ukrainian news to other languages. “I am Ukrainian, my country’s being invaded and my family is currently there, so I’m being directly affected by this," she tells Smiley News

“I lived there for seven years. Me and my long term Ukrainian friend are part of the Telegram channel that encourages people to translate Ukrainian news to different languages. So, for example, we'd translate it from Ukrainian to English and then send it to our friends that speak other languages too, such as Italian, French, Spanish, etc. to spread awareness as much as possible.”

"More can be done"

Cari believes that more should be done to provide language support for refugees in the UK. “The government is looking to increase the number of qualified interpreters, however we would advocate for a language support budget to be allocated to local authorities who can then distribute to charities, community groups, and host families and this should include the costs of providing training to volunteer interpreters," she says. 

The Russo-Ukrainian War is a huge humanitarian crisis, but the volume of volunteer-led language support on offer to refugees is truly heartwarming.

“The language has come to the forefront across the world," says Cari. "With millions of Ukrainian people having fled their country, the Ukrainian language has become very visible and increasingly needed for interpreting and translation.” 

Inspired to act?

VOLUNTEER: If you have knowledge of the Ukrainian language or other language skills (like Russian or Polish), you can volunteer with organisations such as Charity Translators, Respond Crisis Translation or Translators Without Borders.

SUPPORT REFUGEES: You can volunteer to host Ukrainian refugees. Some useful information is available at and Ukraine Take Shelter is an independent platform connecting refugees with potential hosts.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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