Faculty, students, and alumni of the School of Arts and Sciences-Newark (SASN) at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, have found many ways to be of service during the pandemic, from 3D-printing masks for frontline health care workers to delivering food to the elderly and needy. Recently, the Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) community has found another way to contribute by aiding the city of Newark’s contact tracing efforts via its Lives in Translation Project (LiT).
Created in 2016 by Jennifer Austin, a professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, and a group of RU-N faculty from SASN and Rutgers Law School, LiT leverages the university’s remarkable diversity by recruiting undergraduate volunteers to serve as interpreters and translators to help immigrants seeking legal services.
In April of last year, Newark Alliance, a nonprofit which focuses on economic revitalization and partners with the city on its contact-tracing work, contacted RU-N Chancellor Nancy Cantor to see how the university might get involved. Cantor then reached out to LiT Director Stephanie Rodriguez and LiT Co-Founder Randi Mandelbaum, a professor at Rutgers Law School who runs its Child Advocacy Clinic.
“After speaking with Newark Alliance, Nancy suggested we create a group of both translators/interpreters and legal-clinic experts in case any contacts needed legal advice,” Rodriguez said. “It seemed vital to engage voices for people with limited English proficiency and put them at ease.”
Rodriguez put out a call for student volunteers and was flooded with responses. The program now has 25 volunteers who help provide interpreting and translation in Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish.
To prepare for the job, volunteers completed a six-hour training, which was a combination of live video sessions and online tutorials, complete with PowerPoint presentations, self-assessments, and scripts, and a follow-up training with the New Jersey Department of Health in June.
Volunteers work from home using Google Voice to connect via audio with Newark residents, identifying themselves as calling on behalf of the Newark Department of Health. They reach out to contacts who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, ask if they’re exhibiting symptoms, and identify any underlying conditions the contacts may have.
“I’m so glad that Rutgers University offered this internship,” said Desiree Roquetti, a senior pursuing a BA/MA in political science as part of an accelerated program. “I’ve been able to feel like a valuable member of my community by using my language, communication, and operational skills to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Rodriguez has been floored by both the rapidly changing landscape and the enormous response.
“I would never have thought I would be faced with a pandemic my first semester with LiT, but it’s been so encouraging to see how students responded, how our multilingual students wanted to share their language skills, and how LiT students have given a voice for self-advocacy to communities who may not have had one.”
Read Full Article from Rutgers University-Newark School of Arts and Sciences-Newark (01/29/21)
Author: Lerner, Lawrence
News summaries © copyright 2020 SmithBucklin