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Friday, May 12, 2023

‘There is More Joy in Giving:’ Catholic Charities Interpreter Marie Louidor on Bridging the Language Gap

Marie Louidor, an interpreter for Catholic Charities Boston’s Community Interpreter Services (CIS), has been helping people to communicate for nearly her whole life. Born and raised in Haiti, Marie grew up speaking both Haitian-Creole, her country’s native tongue, and French, the official language.

To Marie, even as a child, juggling multiple languages was as natural as learning to walk. Today, she is fluent in Spanish, English, and in the process of learning Italian and Portuguese.

“I love to see the relief of a person being able to express himself or herself through me,” she said.

Collectively speaking over 90 languages, the 150 interpreters who work for Catholic Charities Boston’s CIS come from all over the world, united by a shared loved of language and a common desire to help those in need.

As a social enterprise of Catholic Charities of Boston, CIS is the only nonprofit interpreter service provider in the state, investing its revenue directly into Catholic Charities Boston’s programs, from childcare to emergency food assistance to adult education classes.

“Language access is so important in helping our clients with limited English proficiency navigate the daunting immigration legal system. Interpretation helps them to communicate with immigration officials, the courts, their doctors, their child’s teachers, and many state agencies,” said Erin Cahill, Operations Manager of CIS. “It allows them to engage fully in community events, town halls, and public meetings.”

Serving as a bridge between those seeking support and those able to provide it, CIS’ interpreters not only give a voice to Catholic Charities clients, many who are often desperate to communicate their needs, but they also provide support to businesses that need to communicate through language barriers including law firms, public schools, elder care facilities and state and local government agencies.

Among the many organizations CIS partners with is Boston Public Schools, whose staff have used CIS to provide interpretation services to the district for over ten years.

“The CIS interpreters are professional and skillful, and the CIS scheduling team is quick to respond, efficient, and a pleasure to work with,” said Allen Dowling, Director of Translation & Interpretation for Boston Public Schools. “Their interpretation services are used in our many IEP sessions, parent-teacher conferences, public School Committee meetings, and more. In 2021, we used their services for almost 1,000 meetings in various languages.”

The refugees and immigrants Marie works with are primarily from Haiti, Dominican Republic, Central and South America, Africa, Canada, and France; like all CIS interpreters, Marie meets with clients either on-site and in person, through teleconferences, or through providing written translations, depending on the client’s circumstances.

“As the Bible says, there is more joy in giving than in receiving. When I am interpreting, I feel I am giving my clients some joy, helping them to connect, helping to bridge the gap,” said Marie.

Marie’s desire to help those in need arises out of the adversity she herself has endured. In January 2010, Marie’s husband was travelling to Haiti to supervise his construction firm activities when the devastating earthquake hit, killing him and nearly 250,000 others. As thousands of Haitians fled to the United States for safety, many not knowing a single word of English, Marie regularly helped people by offering them free interpretation services, as well as rides to various local institutions such as Boston Medical Center, American Red Cross, food pantries, and Boston Public Schools registration offices for their children.

Today, Marie remains a steadfast “helper” in the world, working with both new and longtime clients, as well as complete strangers who happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Just last week, as she was sitting in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment, she heard a patient struggling to communicate in Spanish with the receptionist and stepped in to help.

“I almost missed my appointment,” she laughed. “But it felt good to help.”

Established in 1986, Catholic Charities’ Community Interpreter Services (CIS) is the only nonprofit interpreter service provider in the state of Massachusetts and assists persons with limited English proficiency in accessing legal, medical, educational and corporate services through the provision of interpretation and written translation.

Do you have a passion for helping people to communicate in other languages? Community Interpreter Services is hiring interpreters to join their incredible team. Learn more and apply here.

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