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Meet Huda, our December Interpreter of the Month

Clearvoice Meet Huda, our December Interpreter of the Month article Clearvoice Meet Huda, our December Interpreter of the Month article

Our December interpreter of the month is Huda, a Sierra Leonean interpreter for her native Krio and most Arabic dialects. Huda has been interpreting for 20 years! Thank you so much for your hard work Huda! We are so grateful for your interpreting skills, professionalism, and your compassion towards your clients.

It’s a great honour to be interpreter of the month, to know that Clear Voice think I am doing a good job. It makes me feel extremely happy – thank you Clear Voice!

You started interpreting with Clear Voice earlier this year, had you been an interpreter before this?

I have been interpreting for 20 years now, I am a refugee myself and came to the UK in 2000. When I first arrived in the UK, I wanted to do something to help and to give back to the country for supporting me as an asylum seeker, so I volunteered as an interpreter with the refugee day centre in Croydon. I really enjoyed interpreting for the council and wanted to do it as my career, I contacted Croydon Council to ask for the next steps. They were so helpful! They guided me into the right training, and I did a community interpreting course with them and have been working with them ever since. I then joined Clear Voice this year. Thanks to working with Clear Voice I have had the opportunity to interpret for Migrant Help, something I have really enjoyed.

You speak Krio and most Arabic dialects?

Yes that’s right, Krio is my mother tongue. We used Krio at home in Sierra Leone and at school. I especially love interpreting Krio, it makes me feel so connected to the person I am helping. The link to my first language and then being able to help someone using it is very powerful, it makes me enjoy interpreting in even more. I speak almost all the Arabic dialects too but Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian can be quite challenging. That’s why I take notes of difficult words or terminology when I’m interpreting, I then try to find out how to pronounce them at home. I spend a lot of time researching, I study every day, as it is very important to me that I get it right. It’s very important that I understand everything when I interpret.

How do you approach interpreting? What does it mean to you?

I have learned over the past 20 years that listening is extremely important. It is extremely important that I understand what the person applying for asylum is saying. But it is also very important too that the person I am interpreting for also understands me as well. We cannot add or take out anything from the dialogue on either side because that is how mistakes are made. That’s why as soon as I start interpreting, if I do not understand what is being said, I stop. Interpreting isn’t just a job for me, it’s more than that. I am here to help this person when they are at their most vulnerable. And if mistakes are made because I haven’t taken it seriously enough, then it can be life changing for them.

Do you think your own experience of coming to the UK as a refugee influences your interpreting?

Yes, I think it makes my interpreting stronger. I’ve been through the system, I know how important it is, I can’t afford to make any mistakes for my clients.

I have been in the UK for over 20 years now. I am originally from Lebanon, but I was born and raised in Sierra Leone. During the war 22 years ago, we were evacuated by the British army. There was a lot of fighting where I lived, and it was very dangerous. We were brought by the British army to the UK, it was me and my three children – my children were very young. We witnessed the wars in Sierra Leone. I personally have seen so many people hurt and killed before my eyes that I knew we needed to escape. When we settled in the UK, it took us a few years to get over what we had witnessed, even little things like bonfire night could bring back our experiences. It means I understand very well what it is to be a refugee, to be an asylum seeker in this country.

I know that you always treat interpreting for asylum seekers with the respect it deserves, do you find it stressful at times?

It is stressful, especially when you hear other people’s suffering. Even if I have not been through the exact same thing, it can affect me. I’m sure it would affect anyone when they hear the dangerous and life-threatening events that asylum seekers have been through. In that situation, I try to stay calm and, because I have been doing this for 20 years, I try to focus on being accurate so I can remain professional, interpret clearly, and tell their story.

You clearly really enjoy interpreting and helping people, what is it you like the most? Is it telephone interpreting? Face-to-face interpreting? Or the variety?

To be honest, I really enjoy face-to-face interpreting but for convenience sake telephone interpreting is very useful. It means I am able to take calls from wherever I am. During the pandemic, it allowed me to carry on doing my job. It makes me happy that I can be anywhere and work.

But the thing I like the most about working with Clear Voice, is the recognition for my work. It makes me very happy when I see that I have been requested for a specific job. I often see people in the street around my area that I have helped, we will have a conversation or sometimes just say “hello”, that makes me happy too. To know I have helped them. I’ve learned a lot from working with Migrant Help and Clear Voice, and I feel like I learn something new every day. My daughter works for the UN and we talk a lot about issues with asylum.

How old were your children when they came to the UK?

My daughter was 11 years old, she works for the UN and is based in Switzerland now. My sons were 5 and 10 years old. The eldest now works as a plastic surgeon and the youngest is a pharmacist. They spend a lot of time saying I should relax and that I don’t need to work anymore, but I love interpreting and I don’t want to give it up!

Thank you so much, Huda, for all that you do for Clear Voice

I also want to thank Clear Voice for giving me this opportunity to be able to work with Migrant Help and to gain more experience in terms of helping asylum seekers in the country. I’ve seen how the support and the guidance that Migrant Help gives to asylum seekers makes a real difference to people. There is so much work for Clear Voice. You know that people are backing you as well. All the Clear Voice employees I’ve worked with are extremely respectful, helpful, and understanding. That makes my job much easier.