17 Aug Letter from the Chair
By Aimee Benavides
It is hard to believe that this Board’s term began only two short months ago. I am truly excited to report that the energy and enthusiasm among the Board members is palpable. The Board is on a mission to make sure NAJIT is open and accessible to all members, encourages participation, and ensures NAJIT’s future growth by attracting new members and providing existing members with excellent reasons to stay and be engaged. This year has presented some very real challenges.
The pandemic has affected the way we do business and the way we interact. It has changed the way our legal system functions, or as some may argue, has caused it to stop functioning as it should. These are issues that will have to be addressed in a responsible way and NAJIT is in an excellent position to do that. It truly warms my heart to see colleagues pulling together to help find solutions in very trying times, whether that means suggesting protective equipment, wireless setups, online platforms, or a combination of all of the above. At the time of this publication, the Board is in the process of issuing succinct recommendations to safeguard the welfare of interpreters as many courts begin the process of reopening.
As much of the work the Board does happens behind the scenes via email, I would like to share some of the notable projects that have been initiated and those that have been finalized. The Board has had a long-term project to update the online directory to make it a more user friendly tool that allows interpreters and translators to showcase their skills, and facilitates clients finding the professional services they seek. A field was added that allows the user to search for interpreters by zip code,which benefits our members who live near and work in multiple states. We encourage everyone to update their profiles, and if you notice anything that would improve the directory, be assured that your feedback would be most welcome. In fact many of the options you see now are the product of member suggestions.
Another goal that the NAJIT Board is working towards establishing better communication and partnerships with other organizations and groups. One such partnership is with the Vicarious Trauma Response Initiative. This group, which uses the acronym VTRI, is sponsored by the Department of Justice and is currently awarding grants to several different sites, each site consisting of a number of agencies that deal with child abuse, sexual abuse, and other traumatic incidents within the field of social service, as well as medical, police, legal and court encounters.
NAJIT is one of many stakeholder organizations that meets regularly with the VTRI team. The site applications have been received and are being reviewed. Once chosen, the stakeholders will be providing more resources to those sites beginning in September. One of the most important issues that NAJIT representatives have identified is that it is essential to ensure language access to victims of abuse by providing them with the services of certified and qualified interpreters. It is also very important that interpreters providing these services be equipped with coping strategies to address the vicarious trauma often produced by this type of work. More often than not, what we may consider to be burn-out, may in reality be unaddressed vicarious trauma. If this is an area where you would like to actively participate with NAJIT as part of the stakeholder group, we encourage you to contact the Board.
This term has definitely gotten off to an excellent start and many of the NAJIT committees are jumping into their respective projects with both feet. The Membership Committee will be conducting extensive outreach to hear from all members and contact potential new members. The Position Paper committee has a solid team of experts onboard and will continue their great work. As always, we encourage members to reach out to the Board if there are issues or topics that you feel would merit a Position Paper.
Additionally, plans are underway to improve and expand the articles published in Proteus.
While the year 2020 has thrown a curve ball for most of us in our professional and our personal lives, NAJIT has been providing webinars at no cost for members in an effort to lessen the burdens some of us are facing due to court closures. We are stronger together, and if we put our heads together, we can find ways to help and support each other through these challenging times.
Your fellow volunteer,