A huge thank you to Vera, our August Interpreter of the Month
Each month we recognise one of our amazing interpreters for their dedication and excellence. For August, we are celebrating Vera, a Ukrainian interpreter who started working with us earlier this year.
It was an honour to speak to Vera about her journey to becoming a professional interpreter, something that was a long-standing ambition but which was accelerated by her desire to help those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. The flexibility of working with Clear Voice means she can continue her career in the NHS (and look after her two children!) whilst helping people in need with her outstanding professional interpreting.
My start in interpreting
I really enjoy interpreting, but when it comes to professional interpreting, I’m still quite new to it honestly. It is something I had always wanted to try but, in the past, I felt like there were too many obstacles. I have a degree in business management rather than languages, which felt like one barrier. I seriously considered starting interpreting years ago, before I had my second child but up until this year had never taken the leap to performing it professionally.
In a voluntary capacity I have been interpreting for a long time. I work in the NHS in Ward Management and since 2014, when I completed an Introduction to Medical Interpreting course, I have been volunteering to interpret for medical appointments.
I am Ukrainian and interpret for Ukrainian and Russian, the two languages most commonly spoken there. But I have lived in the UK for a very long time. I have a family here, I have children, I’m married to an Englishman.
Responding to the war in Ukraine
When the war in Ukraine started on the 24th February, I felt like I needed to do something. I really didn’t know how to help, what to do, or how to apply my skills. I felt helpless and desperate. But one of my previous managers put me in touch with a Southampton community group who were helping Ukrainian refugees as they arrived in the UK. They needed interpreting for appointments but I was reticent about it because the conflict is very personal and very distressing. I wasn’t sure about how I would handle the emotional impact of those interactions. But I decided it was the best way I could help.
Turning voluntary work into a new career
With so many people fleeing the conflict there was so much demand. The positive feedback I received from all these voluntary appointments inspired me to apply for professional interpreting opportunities. I found Clear Voice by searching online and immediately I had a good feeling about them. I liked the ethos of Clear Voice, the positive ratings it received, and knowing that it supports Migrant Help.
I’ve discovered a completely different world of interpreting since starting with Clear Voice. I had never performed telephone interpreting before so that was entirely new to me. But it was very natural and I settled into it easily. I also really value the flexibility and ability to work when I want to. I still work in the NHS, I have two children, so it is fantastic to be able to log on to the telephone interpreting system immediately whenever I am available to work.
Work that makes a difference
Since starting with Clear Voice I have found that I particularly enjoy interpreting for counselling sessions – those are probably my favourite interpreting assignments. It is really rewarding to help someone receive the support they need and see them get better. Receiving lovely compliments and positive feedback about my work also makes me feel that I am doing something worthwhile.
But it comes with challenges
But there is a more challenging side as well. Unfortunately I have heard some terrible stories from Ukrainian refugees. Stories which are very difficult to hear, especially as a Ukrainian myself. I have learnt to be able to compartmentalise the work; to switch off and be able to return to my ordinary life, but it can be very challenging.
Professional interpreting is important
Sometimes I almost feel guilty that I am being paid for the interpreting, especially when people thank me so profusely for helping them and I started out interpreting as a volunteer. But I have to remind myself that it is OK to be paid for my time. Professional interpreting is an important and very valuable service. Although many interpreters start off by volunteering and there is a huge amount of voluntary interpreting that takes place, people do need a professional service they can rely on. Interpreters work very hard! It is not as easy as people might think. People really count on you. The clients rely on you and know that you will deliver their message correctly.