IIC Interpreters: Using Language to Build Trust and Homes

“Everyone should have to attend classes like these!” said Rachael, an Iowa International Center interpreter, after finishing interpreting for a financial literacy class at Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity. One of the benefits of being involved in the class is that interpreters share in the excitement about what they learn. And now she wants other immigrants and refugees to have similar access.

Over the past year and a half, the Iowa International Center has been a primary source of interpretation for Habitat for Humanity’s financial and home buying programs. These programs are complex and require weeks of classroom learning and carefully walking clients through the process. For immigrants and refugees with limited English proficiency, IIC interpreters bring great value.

Interpreters create a positive learning culture at Habitat. “Trust is such an important part of what all of us do [at Habitat],” says Daniel Warfel, Family Services Coordinator. “People put their trust in us when we take them into the program and when we help them set their goals up, and so interpreters act as a conduit to build that trust.” As trust and safety are built, clients gain the ability and the opportunity to share their experiences. This enriches the learning experience for all participants. The end result is engaged program participants, educated homeowners, and a greater sense of community.

Roughly 80 percent of Habitat’s Homeownership Program participants are immigrants or former refugees. Commonly requested languages for interpretation at Habitat include Arabic, Burmese, Nepali, and Swahili.

A handful of IIC interpreters regularly work with Habitat, from the initial informational sessions all the way through closing appointments and follow-up home visits. At the home dedication ceremony, all members of the community who took part in the process are invited to welcome the new homeowner. Our interpreters enjoy being one of the first people to help welcome a family home — in their native language.

To find out more about Habitat for Humanity’s Financial Foundation for Success Program and their Homeownership Program, please visit www.gdmhabitat.org/services/

Share this post: