Tarjimly University: Translating Justice Project Update May 2021
Updated: May 8, 2021
By Danya Adib, Stanford University; Alexandra Bauman, Yale University; Husam Khaled, CUNY City College; Nour Abdelwahab, New York University; and Safa Javid, CUNY Queens College
As written by Danya Adib:
Candidate Selection Process:
As an Ibrahim alum, I witnessed first-hand the intellectual vitality, dedication, and diversity of
students who are selected to participate in this life-changing program. So, when I was
brainstorming Tarjimly University and considering candidates for the ambassadorship program, I knew I would have to look no further than the Ibrahim Program. I communicated with Nick Shafer, fellow Ibrahim alum-turned-mentor and project coordinator, who referred me to the Ibrahim alum database and suggested some of the most committed students to me. After sending out the opportunity, I immediately heard back from several interested students. I conducted Zoom interviews with them, asking questions regarding their academic background, leadership/organizing experience, and the ability to think on their feet and develop creative solutions. Choosing which candidates to bring on board was not an easy task. We had more qualified candidates than spots available for the ambassadorship. Still, to ensure we had an intimate group, I ultimately chose four students: Alexandra Bauman (Yale University, Ibrahim Alum' 20), Husam Kaid (The City College of New York, Ibrahim Alum' 20), Nour Abdelwahab (New York University, Ibrahim Alum' 20), and Safa Javid (Queens College, Ibrahim Alum' 20). All demonstrated exceptional wit and impact throughout their careers, as well as being generally kind and emotionally intelligent human beings!
Alexandra Bauman is a senior at Yale studying History and Arabic. She is VP of the Yale Dems and has worked on several political campaigns. She has spent time in several countries in the Middle East through fellowships and study abroad and interned for EcoPeace this summer.
Husam Kaid is a senior studying IR and Political Science at The City College of New York. He is passionate about human rights, social justice and international relations.
Nour Abdelwahab is a senior studying IR, Media Studies, and Sociology at NYU. She's
passionate about sharing perspectives not conventionally seen about the MENA region through language, culture, and history.
Safa Javid is a senior double majoring in Computer Science and Political Science, international relations concentration, at Queens College. She is passionate about women's rights, technology, philanthropy, international affairs, politics, history, and film.
Danya Adib-Azpeitia is a senior studying Symbolic Systems at Stanford and works at Tarjimly. She's most excited about ethical tech applications to maximize altruism. In the past, she has also served as a Corporate Responsibility fellow at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
Pathways for Justice:
Once all the candidates accepted their oﬀers, we went straight to work. I hosted a "TarjimlyU Kickoﬀ" where we all introduced ourselves and shared our "superpowers." I quickly realized that the icebreakers were somewhat superﬂuous, considering that the ambassadors had spent extensive time together in the Middle East! (In hindsight, it was a blessing that all the ambassadors attended the same Ibrahim trip, as the program fosters deep friendships that persist across borders. The team came together on the ﬁrst day with a great chemistry and respect for each other, which made my job as director much easier.)
Together, we set group norms and brainstormed action plans for translator recruitment. Each week, we would come together for a half-hour meeting where we discussed ongoing strategies and results. One of my favorite elements of these meetings was seeing how the ambassadors inspired and helped each other get "unstuck." For instance, Alexandra mentioned that she had started reaching out to people in her network once institutional outreach seemed to stagnate. Nour went above and beyond by reaching out to MuslimTikTok (an Instagram account with hundreds of thousands of followers), who then reposted our TarjimlyU recruitment information. Husam also came up with an innovative solution -- he gave a presentation in various classes and asked the teacher to provide extra credit to every student who signed up as a translator. Safa helped me learn more about graphic design.
Beyond translator recruitment, the ambassadors also spearheaded a fundraising campaign for Giving Tuesday. I created a series of infographics about the importance of language justice for refugees and immigrants. The ambassadors then reposted this content to their accounts. We all also shared fundraising bingos to our Instagram Stories, where every time someone would donate, we would tag the donor until we got a "bingo." I believe this might have been the most fun exercise of the whole program!
Together, we were able to sign up 205 translators! (The Yale chapter signed up 51 volunteers; City College signed up 44 volunteers; NYU signed up 42 volunteers; Queens signed up 17 volunteers; Drexel signed up 19 volunteers; Stanford signed up 31 volunteers)
Figure 1: A Geographic Breakdown of Our Recruited Volunteers
We were able to meet the main goal of the program, which was to ensure that we recruited rare/highly-needed languages for the Tarjimly platform, like Bengali, Cantonese, Urdu, Polish, Amharic, Russian, Tigrinya. All in all, we recruited speakers of 40 diﬀerent languages: Arabic Classical, Spanish, Arabic-Egyptian, Arabic-Levantine, Arabic-gulf, Urdu, French, Arabic-Iraqi, Hindi, Arabic North African, Bengali, Traditional Mandarin, Turkish, Simpliﬁed Mandarin, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Tamil, Telugu, Italian, Korean, Punjabi, Cantonese, Amharic, Albanian, Pashto, Farsi-Irani, Dari, Portuguese, Hebrew, Tigrinya, Sundanese Arabic, Somali, Gujarati, Thai, Hausa, Japanese, German, Haitian Creole.
Our impact is not only measured in the amount of volunteers we recruited, but also in the impact of the volunteers themselves. Figure 2 shows the detailed breakdown of both the quality and the context of our sessions.
Furthermore, each TarjimlyU ambassador was responsible for putting Tarjimly in touch with two NGOs that could beneﬁt from community translation. Some of these organizations (like New Haven Legal Assistance) have pursued a relationship with Tarjimly to improve their services.
Beyond recruitment, the TarjimlyU ambassadors demonstrated impact through our fundraising attempts. By conducting outreach over social media and leveraging our networks, we raised over $2500 for our GivingTuesday campaign! This money helped Tarjimly fund an international agency to help with the certiﬁcation of safeguarding policies that protect vulnerable communities on the app.
All in all, I would label the Tarjimly University program a great success. Not only did we manage to improve Tarjimly's oﬀerings for highly-needed languages and increase language justice using a variety of multi-platform strategies, but the ambassadors grew to be even more competent and conﬁdent leaders in their own right. The six weeks really ﬂew by!
The work is even more impressive when considering the complicating context. The ongoing pandemic, the remote nature of the school year, and the U.S. presidential elections had many of our targeted volunteers (college students) distracted. With so much going on, it was challenging trying to hit the initial metrics I laid out — though I also take responsibility for perhaps setting the bar a bit too high. It was an excellent learning opportunity for me to improve my ability to set reasonable metrics as a leader and update my beliefs when presented with evidence, both from our recruitment numbers and ambassador feedback.
At our last TarjimlyU meeting, I asked the ambassadors to reﬂect on the program. Many shared appreciation for the ability to communicate to a broad audience, turn listening into action, balance workload in a hectic climate, improve their community organizing by keeping spreadsheets, and getting creative in the face of setbacks. While I found signiﬁcant meaning in bringing an idea into a reality, seeing the ambassadors' growth and impact made all the diﬀerence for me. Furthermore, as a daughter of immigrants, it was personally and deeply touching to be able to launch a program to support language justice, especially in the face of a pandemic that is ravaging vulnerable communities — as Tarjimly’s mission states, “It is a human right to be understood.” This program made me not only a better leader/mentor, but it made me a better human. I am grateful for the Ibrahim Program empowering us to be the next generation of leaders who take compassionate action and maximize the good we can enact.