Sixty-four million people forcibly displaced. Thirty-four thousand fleeing their homes every day. Twenty-one million refugees worldwide – and counting.

The statistics from the global refugee crisis, and the stories of human suffering behind them, are almost beyond comprehension.

And while the situation stirs deep sadness and sympathy in most observers, its unfathomable scale creates a feeling of powerlessness in many of those who long to help.

It’s a feeling we’ve all known at STP. So when Translators without Borders (TWB) contacted us with an urgent project involving the Nordic languages, and a chance to contribute directly to the crisis response, we were only too glad to volunteer our support.

A call for help

TWB is a US-registered non-profit that gives the world’s most vulnerable people access to vital knowledge in a language they can understand.

The group connects aid organisations with a professional network of volunteer translators, helping them to build local-language translation capacity and remove language barriers.

As part of its response to the ongoing crisis, TWB is working with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to educate host communities in the Nordic and Baltic countries about the needs and experiences of incoming refugees.

An information website is being created to support those efforts, with 7,000 words of English content needing to be translated into Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish, among other languages.

TWB’s regular Nordic volunteers, however, were at full capacity in mid-November, when the translation work needed to start.

And with no time to source and screen new linguists on its own, the organisation needed an urgent solution from elsewhere.

The Nordic network responds

We received TWB’s request for help on the morning of 11 November. By the end of the day, our response was already taking shape.

The winter edition of our company newsletter, scheduled for late November, was in production at the time. So our first move was to replace our usual news round-up with a special appeal on TWB’s behalf.

This, we hoped, would inspire our Nordic freelancers to volunteer for this or future projects. And, with the newsletter going out to 4,300 subscribers, it would at least ensure good exposure for TWB’s cause.

Meanwhile, Raisa McNab, from our senior management team, wrote directly to a selection of our preferred Nordic freelancers, urging them to give whatever time they could spare to TWB.

Translators in our preferred category, like all our linguists, comply with the qualification and competence requirements of the ISO 17100 translation quality standard.

But they also translate at least 100,000 words per year to our demanding requirements – thereby proving their skill and trustworthiness.

With this in mind, TWB agreed that our tried-and-tested freelancers – as well as our similarly qualified in-house linguists – could work on the project without any extra screening.

This would allow the organisation to bypass its usual recruitment process and potentially shave weeks off the project’s turnaround time.

Special delivery

The response was swift and heart-warming, with 35 of our preferred freelance translators pledging time and support to TWB’s project.

With our in-house linguists also eager to contribute, it meant that we were able to cover all 28,000 words of Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish, manage the project ourselves – and deliver to TWB in time for Christmas.

Our preferred Icelandic partners, meanwhile, have pledged their full internal capacity to the project. Working directly with TWB, they will provide most of the remaining seven thousand words of Icelandic content.

Kathy Walters, a member of STP’s 25-strong project management team, took charge of setting up the job, splitting the work between volunteers and managing the translation process through to delivery.

For Kathy, the work offered a break from the commercial norm, and a chance to use her skills for the good of those most in need. “It’s been great to contribute something positive,” she said.

“Nobody wants to have to flee their home and seek shelter thousands of miles away, and I hope the content we’ve translated will help others to understand the desperate situation these people are in.

“I’m really grateful that STP chose to donate in-house time to the project at such a busy time of year.”

Trine Poulsen, one of our Danish in-house translators who worked on the project, was similarly thankful for the opportunity to support the work of TWB.

“The content of the job itself was hard and emotional to read,” she said, “as it relates to innocent people affected by war.

“But it feels good to have been able to translate something that can hopefully make a small but real difference to these people’s lives.”

Minna Helminen, from STP’s Finnish in-house team, added: “I believe that translation – the act of bringing a message to someone in their mother tongue – is a powerful tool in the fight against miscommunication, misrepresentation and prejudice.

“I’m proud to work for a company that supports an organisation like Translators without Borders, and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the invaluable work that UNHCR does every day.”

Every word counts

TWB translates over eight million words each year, which makes this particular project a mere speck in the organisation’s annual output.

Nonetheless, every translated piece of humanitarian information – no matter how small – makes a positive difference. And every new volunteer gives TWB the capacity to do even more of its essential work.

“With new volunteers on board we can divide tasks between more people, giving volunteers the option to take on the volume of work that suits them,” said Amy Rose McGovern, director of external affairs at TWB.

She added: “Having a trusted partner such as STP assist us with work for non-profit partners is one of the most valuable kinds of support we can get.”

“Knowing that professional, reliable translators are there to help on important projects such as this means we can be sure of getting the job done – and doing it well.”

To read more about the work of Translators without Borders, and to register as a volunteer, visit

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