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Martes 09/08/2022

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Voluntary interpreters, a “quiet work” that has survived the pandemic

  • Volunteers help foreigners to carry out any kind of official procedure
  • W. Navarro assists a user at the Las Lagunas Health Centre.

They have been volunteering for more than 25 years and, although they are still active, the economic crisis has greatly reduced their services

“Those of us who have lived abroad know what it is like not to have anyone to help you. I think the service we offer in Mijas is a real treat”. Wenceslao Navarro describes what does mean to him to be an interpreter. He has been a member of the Mijas Association of Volunteer Interpreters (AIVOMI) since 2010 and is currently volunteering at the Las Lagunas Health Centre with English and Scandinavian speakers.
AIVOMI is a group of mostly retired people, and many are Mijas foreign residents who have been doing this work for many years. “We, interpreters, have been doing this work for about 25 years, coordinated by the Mijas Foreigners Department back then”, explains the group President Juan Vicente García, who has been doing it for 15 years now. AIVOMI was established as an association in 2017. Since then, it has been working independently, but it remains the same. Foreigners who do not speak Spanish and have to carry out any official procedure with any organisation may ask for assistance. The interpreters offer their services to the Guardia Civil, the National Police, Health Centres, and Care. Before the pandemic, they also assisted the Mijas secondary schools by offering English conversation with native speakers to the pupils, something that the education system lacks”, García added.

But the pandemic arrived, and the volunteers had to reduce their services. “Unfortunately, we can’t go to the schools these days,” said the President, and some of the other interpreting services are done over the phone to avoid contact. Today, AIVOMI has about a dozen members, but it has doubled. “We are still active,” the President stressed, but it is true that “now, we are doing a quiet work”.

 

Not asking for anything

The interpreters carry out their work voluntarily. “I started as an interpreter as I once accompanied a gender violence victim to the Guardia Civil headquarters. I saw a sign saying that volunteers were needed. I called and signed up from minute one. I have mostly been in La Cala and Mijas Guardia Civil, and I already feel like a family there. I have very nice colleagues in the headquarters, and we help each other”, says another volunteer, Miriam Salviche. All AIVOMI volunteers have the experience of having lived abroad and speaking at least three languages. “I think our municipality is ahead of its time in the service provided to foreigners,” she added. Considering the large foreign population in Mijas, with more than 150 nationalities living together, “we can’t imagine the demand”, concluded Salviche.

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