Notre Dame students have joined with the American Red Cross to form a Community Language Bank. A key mission of the Language Bank is to ease refugees’ transition to their new life in the United States. Senior Chris Meister developed the idea after a trip to Kenya, where he realized that there are many refugees in the United States who don’t speak English, and that Notre Dame has the resources to help them.
Andrew Kelly, Rachael Curtin, and Lauren Wester are all French majors who have been active in the development of the Language Bank. Lauren translated the mission statement into French for the advertisement to be passed out in local hospitals and culture associations. Andrew and Rachael compiled refugee contact information, and all three have called local hospitals, religious organizations, and culture associations to inform the community about the new Language Bank.
The Language Bank provides translation and interpretation services to refugees, asylum seekers, and foreign-born individuals in need, as well as English classes and cultural classes. Part of the program involves students translating documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, school diplomas, etc. into English. Another service is interpreting phone calls so that refugees are able to make their appointments or other important inquiries. If necessary, students can accompany refugees to doctor’s appointments, parent teacher conferences, etc. as well. Students and teachers from Notre Dame, IUSB, and Bethel together can provide services in over 13 foreign languages, including Swahili, Arabic, Indonesian, Bosnian, and French.
Members of the Community Language Bank hope that they can expand their services and languages available to reach even more of those in need in the South Bend community.