Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Respond Crisis Translation

What is the name of your solution?

Project HEAL (Health Equity and Language Access)

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Project HEAL facilitates digital access to healthcare and other services, medical information and economic opportunities for non-English speakers.

What specific problem are you solving?

While the injustices hurled at migrants finally became a household topic during the years of Trump, conditions for migrants have only worsened as the Biden administration, far from ending violent Trump-era policies, has in fact expanded them. Few discussions focus on the language-based violence that underpins the whole system. Thousands of asylum seekers, including those in detention or held at the border in dangerous circumstances facing death threats, kidnapping, extortion, rape, and extreme weather, are forced to navigate the system with no access to qualified interpreters. For instance, ICE’s Language Access Plan 2019 - 2020 report shows that the agency failed to meet a fulfillment rate higher than 50 percent for all but two of more than 20 indigenous languages when faced with requests for language services.

Yet America’s carceral asylum system is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to systemic language violence. Language violence makes mobility impossible for non-English speaking communities across every other single system in our country as well: from medical care, to social services, housing, school systems, etc. The urgency of the need for language access in this country became even more evident at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when non-English speakers were not being informed about the virus, protection measures, and restrictions being implemented around them. As identified by the The National Health Law Program in their civil rights complaint, numerous states have demonstrated the discriminatory provision of COVID-19 Services to Persons with Limited English Proficiency; as recent research shows, non-English speaking individuals show a significantly higher rate of COVID-19 incidence and mortality. This is unfortunately not just specific to the U.S.; similar problems exist around the world. 

However, this lack of language access for non-English speakers is not a talent issue. There are so many multilingual talented people waiting and wanting to provide support. Among ongoing systemic barriers to language access, are the issues of digital equity and funding. Without access to paid opportunities, and the hardware and software necessary to plug into remote interpretation and translation work, systems-impacted practitioners cannot provide the support non-English speakers need to receive life-critical healthcare and other services. 

Respond works with immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and detainees for whom a lack of adequate language support can have life-or-death consequences. We advocate for a holistic approach to health and wellness: access to healthcare and health information is a crucial first step, but non-English speakers also need access to economic opportunities, housing, legal support, as well as any other services that will allow them to lead dignified, safe, and stable lives. We provide professionalization and economic opportunities to systems-impacted interpreters and translators so that they can plug into this work and provide linguistic support to non-English speakers experiencing crisis. We partner with movement leaders to change this reality, protecting the human right to language access so that life-affirming resources can be accessible to all. Our work creates a ripple effect throughout the nonprofit social justice world by making the services of nonprofits on the frontlines accessible to thousands of linguistic minorities.

Among other projects, our Afghan Languages Team has collaborated with HIAS to translate an 83 page Mental Health Curriculum and are currently producing voice recordings of some of this curriculum’s activities in Pashto and Dari; we have partnered with the South London Refugee Association (SLRA) to provide provide trauma-informed support for therapy sessions, and have more recently partnered with community organizers in New York City to mobilize in less than 24 hours to provide Hausa, Twi, Soninke, and Mandinke interpreting for therapy support for families affected by the house fires in the Bronx which resulted from environmental racism and structural negligence. We have supported migrant detainees like Carlos who requested medical attention for depression and his essential medication for high blood pressure at least ten times before being connected to a Portuguese interpreter at Respond. We have also worked with Primary.Health to translate their COVID testing platform into multiple languages, allowing non-English speaking individuals to both request and receive their test results online. These are just a few examples of the language support we provide so that asylum seekers, refugees and all other migrants have access to healthcare, all of which would not be possible without providing dignified and just wages to the interpreters and translators plugging in to do this work. 


What is your solution?

Project HEAL is a people-centered digital platform that facilitates access to essential health and other types of services requiring medical documentation, health-related information, and economic opportunities through the breaking down of language barriers for non-English speakers. 

We have started working on a prototype for this digital platform, and so far have used Firebase Hosting for frontend and Firebase Cloud Functions for backend design and development. 

The public facing part this platform will serve two purposes:

1) non-English speaking individuals, as well as organizations that provide healthcare and other services for them, can make requests for interpretation and translation support from Respond. By providing seamless communications between our team, individuals and partner organizations, we make sure that anyone experiencing a crisis or situation where language is a barrier to getting support will have access to a translator or interpreter. This ranges from facilitating virtual interactions between therapists and non-English speaking individuals in the U.S., to providing multilingual medical conditions glossaries for healthcare providers who attend to refugees fleeing Ukraine. 

2) Language practitioners have access to the frontend and backend of this digital platform to connect to professionalization opportunities, as well as paid interpretation and translation work. Through it, talented multilingual people, both those of who have had the opportunity of receiving formal training for this type of work, as well as those for whom economic and other barriers have blocked them from such training, can apply to join Respond’s language teams.  Once screened, those who are onboarded receive Respond’s trauma-informed and gender and LGBTQIA+ inclusive training, will have the opportunity to plug into our project assignment system to take on paid language support requests, and also ask for hardware, software, and Wifi/broadband connectivity when such tools are not accessible to them. 

The internal part of this platform will allow us to streamline our current operations by automating much of what is currently done manually, such as the input of partner organization and individual requests, interpreter and translator access to training and paid projects, and requests for hardware and connectivity. It will also enhance our ability to track projects across language teams, emphasize programmatic strengths, and identify which teams are in most need of technical, financial and other kinds of support.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Project HEAL will allow us to more efficiently serve asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants who reach out directly, in addition to 124 partner organizations throughout the U.S. and globally, working to facilitate communication, health, safety, and success for their clients in response to their unique contexts and linguistic needs, while also providing income sources to systems-impacted language practitioners affected by xenophobic migration policies and COVID-income loss. Among many collaborations, we have worked with Emoción Sana to provide access to mental healthcare to Spanish speakers in the U.S., provided interpretation services for Doctors Without Borders, translated surveys about COVID and information about vaccines for Mount Sinaï Hospital, transcribed and subtitled COVID informational videos for USAHello and Research-Aid Projects, and more recently translated Frontida Records’ platform for digitized health records for refugees fleeing Ukraine. In just 2 years, Respond has translated almost 29,000 pages and provided over 175,000 minutes of trauma-informed oral interpreting to over 4,000 individual asylum seekers in addition to our day-to-day casework supporting our partner organizations in medical care, legal and social services, housing, school systems, etc. 

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Respond is the only rapid response language access collective in the U.S., mobilizing around the clock to provide trauma-informed, life-critical translation and interpretation services to all people who require language support in contexts of crisis and resettlement and to the organizations supporting them. 

We strongly believe that the people best equipped to understand and address the needs of a language community are impacted native speaker members of these communities; these speakers therefore constitute the majority of our language team members, many of whom are themselves immigrants, asylees, refugees, individuals in their native countries working with local communities, and/or individuals who support families personally affected by the global crises we work to address. 

These impacted community members and team leaders are the individuals who guide our decision-making processes and the systems we build. Through constant dialogue with them, we are able to identify and address crucial gaps in the provision language support. For example, our Haitian team members highlighted the urgent need to create a new voicemail system to interpret for Haitian Kreyòl detainees, rolled out during the pandemic in collaboration with RAICES; our Indigenous language interpreters, some of whom had themselves been deported back to Guatemala, spotlighted the importance of digital access and technological infrastructure in allowing them to continue leveraging on their language expertise for remote translation/interpretation. Gaps like these are how we came to understand the urgency of updating our system to make it more accessible over a wider range of contexts and modalities. 

The Project HEAL prototype was led by a volunteer UX designer and volunteer developers from Google. It was unfortunately set aside due to lack of time by the team to keep volunteering for the project, and lack of funding to pay the UX designer to complete it. We will reach out to our collective of 2500+ language practitioners when we recruit for our Tech Lead, UX Designers, and Software Developers; although they provide language support, they often also work or have skills in a multitude of other areas. For instance, our current Accountant, first served as an interpreter on the Haitian Kreyòl team. Knowing that many refugees fleeing the Ukraine work in tech, we will also reach out to the Ukrainian National Association in the U.S. and continue to reach out to the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada; in this way, we are committed to finding new and sustainable economic opportunities for our systems-impacted team members both within and beyond the provision of language services.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Build fundamental, resilient, and people-centered health infrastructure that makes essential services, equipment, and medicines more accessible and affordable for communities that are currently underserved;

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

San Francisco, CA, USA

Our solution's stage of development:


How many people does your solution currently serve?

6000+ individuals and 124 partner organizations (and counting)

Why are you applying to Solve?

Working with 124 partner organizations and thousands of individuals across 108 languages has required the development of a project management system capable of tracking and coordinating the thousands of requests received, as well as ensuring communications between our language teams and me. A Respond UX Design volunteer, along with volunteers from Google started working on a prototype for Project HEAL. To be able to update and complete the Project HEAL prototype in a way that is both sustainable and adaptable to our growing needs, we need financial support and coaching to hire a part-time Tech Lead, as well as part-time UX Designer and Software Developers. We also need mentoring and strategic advice from experts so that we can plan the best ways to update and complete the prototype.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Ariel Koren, Executive Director

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

With our small budget, we created a project management system using Google Drive, but given the increase in the volume of requests in the past year, we desperately need more advanced software to support individuals and partner organizations that reach out, language practitioners signing on to projects, and to support our operations. Project HEAL will make access to our services simpler and more streamlined for thousands of individuals, and hundreds of partner organizations and language practitioners. 

Respond is community-centered, as opposed to other translation-focused organizations. We are on the ground mobilizing wherever crises occur, building community-centered solutions as the need arises. We support our partners by meeting them where they are, and we use current systems or create new ones when necessary to make sure we support their and our clients’ needs. It is through grassroots fundraising and community-centered development where every dollar in revenue goes straight to paying translators and project managers. Last year, we paid $161,000 to COVID salary-impacted translators and interpreters. In 2021, 30% of translators who took projects were compensated, and 70% were volunteers donating their time and talent to the work.. Finally, interpreters are rarely informed on how to support a trauma survivor. Respond is unique in that our collective is trained in trauma-informed and compassionate interpreting. This is key to ensuring interpreters do not contribute to retraumatization and create safe environments for survivors to share painful memories. We also center the emotional well-being of our translators and interpreters; we have a multilingual therapist team on-staff available to interpreters and translators at risk of experiencing second-hand trauma. 

There are many communities mobilizing to respond to systemic language-based violence. CIELO and Colectivo Vida Digna are examples of powerful grassroots communities of Indigenous language interpreters, based in Los Angeles, U.S., and Xela, Guatemala, respectively. The biggest issue facing grassroots mobilization efforts like CIELO and Colectivo Vida Digna is the systemic funding challenges that often force interpreters to do the work without pay or that make it impossible to provide systemic professionalization support. CIELO and Vida Digna are two of several grassroots Indigenous language collectives we partner with, to hire and train Indigenous language speaking interpreters. These partnerships and communities are absolutely essential, and will be able to plug in so much more easily to our work through Project HEAL. 

One of the highest-profile translation-focused organizations is Translators without Borders. TwB works to remove language barriers by developing machine translation technologies, focusing primarily on research and translation for global humanitarian entities like the UN. TwB has a $3.2 million budget, a host of private sector sponsorships, and is fueled exclusively by volunteer work. The strength of TwB is the scale of the large amount of research they produce and translate. However, TwB is not a community-based organization offering emergency support around the clock in the way that Respond does, so they fulfill more of a research and high-level awareness purpose (EG: translating important information about Ebola and COVID19). Translators are expected to work as volunteers which means that TwB does not create jobs in the way that Respond does. 

Tarjimly is another translation organization; it is a tech-based translation nonprofit. As anyone who is bilingual can sign up to translate with Tarjimly regardless of background and qualifications, the app reaches a very large number of people. That said, it is not designed to offer trauma-informed or professional support to people experiencing crises. Their website warns against using them in high-stakes medical, legal, or education contexts. 

Completing and launching Respond’s Project HEAL will allow us to expand our services so that thousands more can access healthcare and other services, as well as medical information. Our workflow will also become more easily accessible for language practitioners who are themselves asylees, refugees, deportees, or in other ways systems-impacted, looking to develop their skills through our trauma-informed and gender and LGBTQIA+ inclusive training. This will open up paid digital opportunities, both at Respond and beyond, for hundreds more language practitioners.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

One of our impact goals is for thousands more individual asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants reaching out to us to have access to: 

  1. Healthcare, including mental health services in emergency response contexts. As we respond to crises around the world, we do outreach to connect with an ever increasing number of partner organizations and individuals so that we can provide our services. For example, we currently have Respond team members in Poland distributing flyers on the border to Ukraine, so that partner organizations and individuals know to contact us for language support. 

  2. Healthcare, including mental health services for those in the U.S. and around the world while they are seeking asylum or refugee status. We will also continue to do outreach here in the U.S. and globally, to universities, healthcare and other service providers, to make sure non-English speakers have increased access to them. 

  3. Legal support by providing medical reports for their asylum or refugee cases. We already work with dozens of legal service providers, and will continue to work with everyone that reaches out to us for language support. Cases requesting asylum or refugee status always include medical records, so we will increasingly support those. 

  4. To other services such as housing, education, etc. that will provide safety and stability, and therefore promote healthy lives. 

Another of our impact goals is to provide the following to hundreds more language practitioners: 

  1. Professionalization opportunities. We are currently hiring a Training Lead to enhance and increase our trauma-informed and gender inclusive training programs. Once they have been screened and onboarded, systems-impacted language practitioners will have access to these and many more training opportunities through the Project HEAL platform. 

  2. Hardware and connectivity. Without computers, ipads, keyboards, and/or internet connectivity, language practitioners cannot easily perform the tasks necessary to remote interpretation and translation. By applying to tech grants and sponsorships, we aim provide these to more systems-impacted interpreters and translators. 

  3. Economic opportunities. Having the training and hardware necessary for remote translation and interpretation work, systems-impacted language practitioners will be able to plug into Respond through Project HEAL, as well as other organizations, to take on language support projects. 

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

By simplifying the way in which individuals and partner organizations connect with Respond to submit requests, and how language practitioners plug into our project management system, as well as by streamlining our internal operations, Project HEAL will have an impact on thousands more individuals and hundreds more interpreters and translators. Our impact goals through Project HEAL are the following: 

  1. In the next year, by launching Project HEAL, we aim to grow our infrastructure around on-the-ground emergency response, particularly around translating medical documents and providing interpretation for refugees in urgent need of medical support. This also means expanding our teams’ capacity to manage an increasing volume of requests in Afghan Languages, Haitian Kreyòl, Indigenous Languages, and Ukrainian, among many others. This growth in infrastructure and capacity will allow us to respond to thousands more requests more quickly and more efficiently, ensuring that thousands of asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants have access to healthcare and other services that promote well-being, and safe and dignified lives. We will also measure this increased capacity by tracking the number of minutes interpreted and number of pages translated for individuals and partner organizations providing healthcare or health-related services. This will fulfill the UN Sustainable Goal of promoting wellb-being and healthy lives for people of all ages. 

  2. In the next year, we aim to increase the number of medically certified interpreters in our collective, particularly those working in rarer languages, to support with emergency response medical work. This will allow us to: 

    1. increase paid opportunities for systems-impacted interpreters and translators from 30% to 50% in the next 5 years, fulfilling the UN Sustainable Goal of providing decent work and economic growth. 

  3. The increased number of medical interpreters recruited and onboarded will allow us to plug into networks of pro bono therapists supporting refugees and aid workers, and medical translators to translate vital records for individuals and legal partner organizations working on their cases. This will require outreach to partner organizations in the U.S., Afghanistan, Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, Poland, Romania and other parts of the world as crises arise, and allow us to grow our current support from 124 to over 300 partner organizations in the next 5 years. This will fulfill the UN Sustainable Goal of strengthening and revitalizing global partnerships.

  4. Through this growth infrastructure and capacity, we aim to increase the percentage of work we do on medical/mental health cases, particularly in emergency response medical settings, such as in neighboring countries welcoming refugees fleeing Ukraine, from 20% to 50%, which means supporting thousands more refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants. 

What is your theory of change?

No individual should be deprived access to life-critical systems and resources due to linguistic barriers. Based on our values of equal access, freedom of mobility, economic justice, community care, and collaboration, we have developed the following core strategies to fight for language democracy alongside our partner organizations.

Firstly, we plan to expand the scope of our work. By implementing a more streamlined project management workflow through the use of novel software, Respond will be able to significantly increase the number of individuals and partner organizations we can serve across a wider range of contexts.

By improving our public-facing interface, individuals and organizations in need of language support will be able to quickly and simply outline their request parameters, while also ensuring consistency across request submissions. Further, more language practitioners across the globe, including those who have been barred from professionalization opportunities and formal training due to disparities in economic and educational circumstances, will be able to apply to join our collective through a uniform and intuitive interface. In response to the crisis in Afghanistan last August, we were able to grow our Pasho/Dari language team by 300% in just two months; our goal now is to double this number yet again to nearly 100 practitioners. With improved processes for the back-end management interface, our project managers and team leads will have a clear, centralized overview of requests, and individual language practitioners will be able to self-assign particular requests based on the parameters provided and their expertise and experience.

These two changes will speed up our turnaround time for request matching, which is essential given the urgency and time-sensitive nature of many of the requests which come in.  As one of our partner organizations the Southern Poverty Law Center says, "Respond is a trailblazer in this field. We rely on Respond to help us translate documents that are in languages not spoken by our team like Tigrinya and Quechua. Last week an Arabic speaking client was freed from detention after Respond turned around an emergency document in less than a day. The efficiency and love of this team is unparalleled.” Maintaining or increasing this rapid response time while preventing translator/interpreter/project manager burnout will only be possible by further streamlining our project management infrastructure. These changes will also allow project managers to spend more time on quality assurance and translator/interpreter support instead of request assignment. In the longer term, this will greatly increase our case-handling capacity, allowing us to help many more partner organizations and individuals facing linguistic barriers to access. 

Secondly, we will continue to advance economic justice. By ensuring that systems-impacted language practitioners are paid dignified living wages for their expertise, we will ethically and effectively bridge the gap between the availability of qualified interpreters/translators and the urgent need for language support in crisis situations. 

By incorporating a centralized trans-national payment system in our new project management software, we will be able to more swiftly pay our team members around the world for their work, many of whom are themselves facing crises and urgently need financial resources. The need for more equitable and time-sensitive payment infrastructure is clear; as one of our Afghan translators shares: “After the collapse of the last government of Afghanistan, all banking channels closed and most international agencies simply gave up on paying people in Afghanistan. Respond has been the only organization that went the extra mile to support. I was contacted by Respond on the same day the system collapsed. They ensured they would help in any way possible, asking me what I needed at that moment. They raised a fund for us translators in this very different difficult time which we will never forget and they have not abandoned us since. They are a supportive and compassionate team and I can say that I am proud to be a part of Respond as a translator.” 

Having an accurate and easily searchable database of requests, request fulfillment, and payment will also allow us to effectively calculate the value of both pro bono services and compensated work. This will not only enable us to more effectively understand our programmatic impact, but will also ensure that we are achieving our goal of providing just compensation  to our network of systems-impacted language practitioners. In addition, streamlining our training, professional development, and technological infrastructure, will help us ensure that every team member has the resources they need to plug into sustainable employment. In the words of one of our Kaqchikel interpreters in training: After I was detained and deported, my Respond interpreters never abandoned me. They fundraised to pay-off my debts and cover therapy and training. Now I am becoming an interpreter in Kaqchikel.”

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Since 2019, our team has been using Google sheets and Google drive to track and manage thousands of pages of translation requests and hundreds of hours of interpreting for asylum seekers and the organizations that support them. As we moved into paying systems-impacted language practitioners for their work, and as the requests kept growing in volume, we had an ever more complicated and interconnected system of spreadsheets, with data input by a growing number of language leads and project managers. This system is no longer functional for the breadth of the work we do, for the amount of communications required between our teams and individuals and partner organizations that reach out for support, nor does it allow us to adequately track our statistics (our work done in each language, for each org, by each translator or interpreter, paid work vs. pro bono work, etc). 

After extensive research and testing of existing project management platforms, we have determined that our unique workflow and goals would be best supported and expanded with a unique solution. Our idea is a software solution: Project HEAL is a simple, streamlined platform for the project management of translation and interpretation requests that will allow us to better connect to our networks of translators and interpreters as well as partner organizations, better communicate with individuals who reach out, as well as better track and manage translation projects and interpreting cases. Our initial prototype has been built using Firebase for frontend design and Firebase Cloud Functions for backend functions. We plan on incorporating GCP for a mixed Firebase and GCP final product, using: Authentication, Cloud Functions (Backend), Hosting (Frontend), Cloud Storage, and Cloud SQL.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • Software and Mobile Applications

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Afghanistan
  • Canada
  • France
  • Guatemala
  • India
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Spain
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Afghanistan
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Morocco
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Slovak Republic
  • Spain
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?


How many people work on your solution team?

Having recently received some funding from the J.M. Kaplan Fund to support technological-related work at Respond, our Executive Director (0.5 FTE), our Director of Operations (FTE), and our Director of Development (FTE) are working to relaunch Project HEAL to complete it. When it was started, one UX Designer and 3 software developers worked part-time and on a volunteer basis on this project. We are hoping to hire a part-time Tech Lead to oversee its completion, and onboard a part-time UX Designer and 2-3 part-time software developers as well.

How long have you been working on your solution?

Our prototype was led by a volunteer UX designer and volunteer developers from the Google, who started working on it in 2020. It was unfortunately set aside mid-way through 2021 due to lack of time by the team to keep volunteering for the project, and lack of funding to pay the UX designer to complete it.

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

The majority of the language and leadership teams at Respond identify as BIPOC and/or are immigrants, children of immigrants, or individuals based in their home countries around the world who would likely be categorized as BIPOC in the United States (but identify differently in their home countries). In addition, our language team leads are in their majority native language speakers of their team’s language.

In its beginnings, Respond was an entirely volunteer-led organization. When we learned that some of our Tigrinya, Amharic, and Somali translators and interpreters were working remotely from refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya and Mexico, we realized that we needed to adjust. In collaboration with our diverse network of language practitioners, Respond has created a hybrid model that allows us to continue working with volunteers while also paying systems-impacted translators/interpreters a dignified living wage.  In addition to ensuring fair compensation, this model also involves offering language practitioners talent-to-career pipelines, training, and professionalization opportunities, empowering our team members across the globe to leverage their language expertise outside of Respond and advancing sustainable economic justice in the long-term. In recognizing that inequitable technological access presents an additional barrier to many remote employment and education opportunities, we have, when able, purchased computers, headphones, and internet connection cards so that more financially vulnerable translators and interpreters can continue to plug in to paid work at Respond and beyond.

In acknowledging that language activism cannot bring about true justice without being holistic and intersectional, all of our translators and interpreters also undergo trauma-informed gender- and LGBTQIA+ inclusive sensitivity training to equip them to handle cases across a range of contexts while upholding the dignity of the individual(s) they are working with. At the same time, in understanding the importance of community care in sustaining the hard work of activism, we are committed to covering therapy fees for any translators/interpreters experiencing trauma compounded by the nature of their work.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Respond provides compassionate, effective and trauma-informed interpretation and translation services to anyone who experiences language barriers in contexts of crisis. We always offer our services pro bono to individual asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants who reach out for language support. Through our language support, they have access to healthcare and other services such as legal, housing and education services that would otherwise be closed to them, and without which their well-being and capacity to survive in contexts of crises, and to lead healthy lives beyond them, would be threatened. 

We also provide free professionalization, equipment, connectivity and economic opportunity to systems-impacted language practitioners whenever we can. For instance, many of our Afghan Languages Team members were unable to find work after the takeover of the Taliban in August 2021, until Respond screened and onboarded them. They now have access to the few basic health facilities that remain, and are able to support family members, which averages 11 per family. 

Our clients are our partner organizations. We never refuse any organization, no matter what their financial situation is. We work on a sliding scale of fees, and ask partner organizations to provide what they can on that scale. We have also come up with several other ways of working with partner organizations that do not require them paying fees according to our scales.  They can make a financial contribution within the financial capacity of their organization, or work with our development team on collaborative fundraising and grant writing strategies. So far, revenue made from work for partner organizations has allowed us to pay the systems-impacted interpreters and translators of our collective who plug into this work. As mentioned previously, this allowed us to pay $161,000 to COVID and otherwise systems-impacted translators and interpreters last year.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Organizations (B2B)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Respond operates through a combination of various sources of funding, including: 

  1. Revenue from paid work: We work with a wide range of partners including organizations as large as the Southern Poverty Law Center or International Human Rights Commission and others as small as completely unfunded grassroots organizing collectives or individual pro bono attorneys. We never ask individual asylum seekers or grassroots activists and collectives with limited operating budgets to pay for this work. We ask partner organizations who have formal budgets to contribute financially to our collective. When feasible, they pay for translation and interpretation work on a sliding scale. If this is not possible, we sit down and discuss other options such as a short term community contribution, which is an amount that is feasible for their budget either for a specific project or a predetermined period of time (3 or 6 months). For the longer term, we offer to partner with them on collaborative development strategies, ranging from joint grant applications, to fundraising campaigns, and more. 

  2. Grant funding: We recently hired a full-time development director. She is developing a grant strategy that will focus on sustaining existing programs, capacity building, and launching new initiatives. In the past year, we have been selected to receive five different grants (including one just last week!), which has allowed us to keep the lights on, expand some of our teams, and pay more translators and interpreters. 

  3. Grassroots fundraising has been a part of our efforts since the beginning of Respond. Last year, following the earthquake in Haiti and the crisis in Afghanistan, we led a fundraising campaign in support of the Haitian Kreyòl and Afghan Languages teams. This fundraiser allowed us to onboard two new project managers for the Haitian Kreyòl team, leading to the coordination and completion of over 1000 hours of interpretation for Haitian migrants. It also allowed us to onboard a Team Lead for the Afghan Languages team who we are currently working with on a fundraising campaign in collaboration with partner organizations. These funds will facilitate the work needed to support thousands of Afghans resettling across the United States and Canada after they are released from military bases and as they navigate through the asylum seeking process by allowing us to continue providing dignified, liveable wages to Afghan language translators and interpreters, many of which are either still in Afghanistan or are refugees themselves. 

  4. Donor and volunteer engagement: We are currently in the process of creating a communications strategy that will increase our public engagement and help us to be in more regular contact with existing and potential donors. This will allow us to share our impact, successes, fundraising campaigns, and any other news more effectively. We have started sending out regular newsletters to this effect. We are also looking into creating a peer-to-peer fundraising strategy through which we will share fundraiser toolkits for people wishing to raise funds for Respond on social media (birthday fundraisers, challenges, races, etc). 

  5. Merchandise sales: In 2020, we opened an online merchandise store. It has been relatively dormant and has yet to be leveraged to its full potential. We are currently in the process of revamping this store to include art created by some of our translators and interpreters. 

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

Until now, we have financed the greatest portion of our activities and pro bono services through revenue (50%), grants (36%), and fundraising/donations (14%). 

In 2021, we were selected to receive three grants, including the J.M. Kaplan Innovation Prize ($175,000), Roddenberry Fellowship ($50,000), and support from ($150,000); in 2022 we were selected to receive both the Westly Prize ($40,000) and a grant from Together Rising ($100,000). Since our inception in 2019, we have also received numerous donations from individuals, family foundations, and anonymous donors totaling nearly $100,000.

Every single dollar earned through revenue and donations has been 100% allocated into our community: paying translators, interpreters, and staff. The grants have allowed us to build our capacity by bringing on additional full-time and part-time staff, and growing our team of compensated systems-impacted language practitioners.

Solution Team

  • AK AK
    Ariel Koren Respond Crisis Translation
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