By Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — Maria Teresa Michel has been a very busy woman since she began her new position as translator/interpreter at Catholic Charities in Fort Wayne in January. The Translation and Interpretation Program is new to this organization that has provided a multitude of vital services to the people of northern Indiana since 1922.
Originally offered through the Red Cross, the program found its way into the Immigration Department of Catholic Charities after the Red Cross could no longer sustain it. Michel, who staffed the program for five and a half of the 11 years it was furnished through the Red Cross, is grateful this much-needed service continues to be offered to the local community.
“It is complimentary to the Immigration Department at Catholic Charities,” notes Michel.
A native of Bolivia, Michel translates documents in four languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese and English, and interprets for clients in the office as needed. And she is quick to educate others on the distinction between the two services. Translation, she says, is paper document to paper document. Interpretation requires a person to interpret a speaker’s words either simultaneously, as the speaker speaks, or consecutively, after short sentences.
Michel reports that her three-day-a-week position has her translating and proofreading simple documents as a service to those who are applying for any legal status allowed by U.S. Immigration, but refrains from any medical or legal documents due to the complicated language used. And that requires considerable paperwork. Most clients who use the service are Hispanics with documents that include birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates, driver’s licenses, affidavits, school transcripts, diplomas and background checks.
This vital program continues to grow by leaps and bounds with the consistent influx of 23 pages translated in January exploding to number 125 pages in March. Michel, a retired teacher, has 20 years experience in translation, dating back to the work she performed with her brother in his translation business in South America.
Michel, who includes coats of arms and logos taken from the internet that duplicate those on the original forms, also notes that the time it takes to translate any given form depends on its length and how complicated it is. “I translate as close as possible to the original,” she says.
The translated documents that are printed on letterhead with Michel’s signature and stamp are considered official for the U.S. and accepted by U.S. Immigration.
Luz Ostrognai, immigration supervisor at Catholic Charities, is pleased with the new program and says, “It’s a wonderful program and much needed. … The majority of our clients are from different countries so this is essential in the immigration process. It compliments the department and makes us more efficient.”
Michel humbly shares those accolades with Bertha Spaulding, immigration support person, who, she says, is very helpful. And she notes that with Ostrognai, a native of Colombia, and Spaulding, from Peru, the three women from South America make a strong and efficient team.
The Translation and Interpretation Program has served clients from Fort Wayne and surrounding area as well as from South Bend, Angola and Elkhart. Michel says she is still “building the program,” and because the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend covers so many counties, many with burgeoning Hispanic and other populations, she would like others to know that they are providing this translation service through Catholic Charities. The Translation and Interpretation Program is fee-based, but Catholic Charities will work with individuals who require a payment plan.
For more information on translation services contact Catholic Charities at (260) 422-5625.
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