All over the world as we speak, good work is being done by volunteers. From aiding refugees to rescuing animals, from teaching underprivileged children to staffing a local charity shop, this quiet work goes on day after day, carried out by unsung heroes. And at times, as in the recent case of Ukraine, we witness mass mobilizations of people power that are truly inspiring.
Sometimes this voluntary work can take place within specific professional contexts. Lawyers take on cases pro bono, doctors join Médicins sans Frontières, teachers take on weekend or evening classes or head out to countries where their skills are much needed.
And translators? We who have the gift of languages and the ability to build bridges between cultures are no exception. While we may well be volunteers in other capacities already, giving of our time as translators can make a huge contribution in a world where problems are rife (and getting rifer by the day) but funding is scarce.
In the same spirit, ProZ.com is about to launch its very own brand-new in-house service, offering pro bono translations in special circumstances, to worthy and carefully selected partners. As many will recall, in our partnership with Translators without Borders in the past, we handled the translation of some 80 million words, but this time we’re starting afresh within ProZ.
I’ve been put in charge of coordinating it: a challenge I’m thrilled about and daunted by in equal measure. The vision is no less than a thriving hub of excellent causes and equally excellent translators giving just a little time and support to help make the world a fairer and better place. And we’ll get there, one step at a time.
I myself am a firm believer in giving back and in fact spent years of my life engaged in voluntary work, including translations. And there are many translators with years in the profession under their belts, who clearly feel the same way. Here’s France-based translator Simon Barnes.
"I'd be interested in helping a worthy cause or
working on a project that's close to my heart
(as indeed I have done, on occasion.)"
Another experienced translator, Sonia Hachicha from Tunisia, concurs.
"It's a great way to feel worthy of helping others. We're not just day-rating machines."
Meanwhile, pro bono work also has much to offer professionals who are starting out and want to bolster their portfolio and gain some experience with a real client – just without being paid. This is what Maria Julia Banzatto Costa of Brazil has to say:
"I believe I can gain experience, learn the platform's processes, and give back to the community, which is something important to me."
And you never know… whether you’re an oldie or a newbie, your contacts with an organization staffed by young volunteers may one day turn into something more lucrative when one of them decides to take up a job at an enterprise. That’s not the reason you do voluntary work of course, but there again, don’t rule out the effects of positive karma or the benefits of paying it forward...
Clearly it’s something that some of us will do alongside our commercial work, rather than instead of it. Giving an hour or two here or there, rather than being deluged with texts. That’ll be part of my job as project manager in the first phase of the project – to make sure that no one is overwhelmed.
I totally get that some people will be uninterested in volunteering at all. Some will see it as “working for free” and dismiss it out of hand. That’s fine. Those aren’t the people I’m going to try to mobilize. If that's you, feel free to walk on by.
If this strikes a chord with you, and you feel you can help in some capacity, I’m all ears. Start by visiting the Pro Bono page for a simple guide to Phase One of the project, where we're gathering our first organizational clients and volunteer translators…
We look forward to having you on board!