OSTI Interpreters interpret for Nobel Laureate

DrMenchu@JeffersonHighOn April 16, OSTI Spanish Interpreters Helen Eby, Jazmin Manjarrez and Heidi Schmaltz, all Medical Interpreters, were honored to interpret for Nobel Laureate Dr. Rigoberta Menchú Tum at Jefferson High School. See the pictures here!

For us, the interpreters, it was an amazing privilege. We learned the lessons the public learned, but more intimately. Dr. Menchú speaks from the heart when she says that she has chosen not to become just another victim. Watch this video of the event!

As interpreters, we had a big responsibility. We made her words, and the words of the others who participated, intelligible to the 1500 who came to hear her. Before we went on stage, we talked. We understood our responsibility. Our accuracy was no more important than it is before a surgery or when a patient goes to the Emergency Room. The message was just… “a little more public.”

We knew about this assignment for over three weeks. We prepared by reading about her, watching videos, and doing what we could. We prepared to make the transition from the privacy of the doctor’s office to the 1,500 member audience of the Jefferson High auditorium. We prepared to switch for the different speakers. But nothing could have prepared us for the warmth and kindness, the human touch of Dr. Menchú and the honest, frank integrity of the rest of the participants. This was real. As interpreters, we had bonded as a team, D’Artagnan style, “All for one and one for all.” Now we bonded with another team, and we worked together. The message had an impact. Portland Public Schools published this press release. “She’s an amazing woman,” said Jack, a Franklin High School student. “She has an amazing amount of courage.”

It was an honor. And when it was all said and done, that is how we felt as interpreters. Honored to have been invited to be part of that team that day, to participate with the leaders of Portland Public Schools and Dr. Menchú to bring a message of peace and encouragement to the youth of Portland, to the Guatemalan youth of Portland Public Schools, and to those who needed assistance with ASL, as we passed the baton of the message to them – Spanish to English to ASL, relay-style.

As interpreters, we look forward to continuing to help our community communicate well. That day we did it very publicly. Most days, it is very privately. Every day it is exciting.