Maria Vertkin, far right, tells the story of Found in Translation at our September 15th meeting.
At our last meeting, we were joined by Maria Vertkin, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Found in Translation. Maria is a nonprofit superstar: she's a Superstar Foundation Veronica Award winner, the 2011 Kip Tiernan Social Justice Fellow, and a 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur, among other things. We were thrilled to have her speak about the nonprofit’s powerful mission and great work.
Maria launched Found in Translation in 2011 with a dual mission: “help[ing] homeless and low-income multilingual women to achieve economic security” and “reduc[ing] ethnic, racial, and linguistic disparities in health care.” Both are worthy missions that Rotary has supported for decades. However, Found in Translation has a unique and ingenious approach to addressing both of these persistent problems: training these multilingual women to provide medical interpretation services. 
Maria knows the struggles these women face firsthand. She is an immigrant herself. She has experienced homelessness. She eventually became a social worker to address persistent poverty and lack of economic opportunities these women face.
Low income people are often treated as if they have nothing of value to offer the economy. People assume low income means low skill. Maria knew from experience that is not true. She discovered the value other’s overlooked: language skills.
The US has huge and growing demand for interpretation and translation services. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of jobs in the field grew by 171%. This need is especially urgent in the medical field. Language barriers significantly impact quality of care. Without effective interpretation, doctors struggle to diagnose and treat patients with limited English proficiency.
As a social worker, Maria recognized this opportunity. She researched existing programs, but discovered that many interpreter trainings were simply too expensive for the people she served. Courses from for-profit providers can cost $1000. Additional costs, including childcare and transportation, further put other interpreter training courses out of reach for low income individuals.
Maria launched Found in Translation to provide a barrier-free interpreter training program. Women accepted into the program get 100 hours of training for free, along with childcare and transportation assistance. Women also receive mentoring to help them develop job skills and financial literacy. After graduation, the program offers ongoing alumnae services to ensure that participants make sustained employment gains.
The program has yielded great results. Each class has seen substantial growth in employment and average wage; the class of 2015 saw average hourly wage grow from $14.47 to $25.22 in only six months. Employment for each class is above 75%. Most importantly, these gains last for years. This program truly changes the lives of the participants.
Unfortunately, Found in Translation has limited resources. Hundreds of women apply for a handful of seats. While the program is growing, there are so many more deserving women that could be helped. Boston Rotaract strongly feels that this wonderful program deserves support. We are putting our money where our mouth is by donating a portion of the proceeds from Women in Rotary to the nonprofit. We strongly encourage everyone to support in several whatever ways:
  1. Attend Women in Rotary on October 5
  2. Donate to Found in Translation directly
  3. Volunteer in several capacities, including reading application essays
  4. Spread the word about the October 17  application deadline