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How to reconcile translation and rescue work
Thread poster: Fiona Grace Peterson

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:24
Member
Italian to English
Apr 18, 2007

I am currently part of a volunteer association which does search and rescue work, including victims trapped under rubble if a building collapses. I do this work with my dog and we work on a volunteer basis. My question is this: if a call to go out on a rescue comes in when I am working on a translation, how correct would it be to go out if I have to postpone a deadline as a result? The other volunteers do shift work and therefore if a call comes in when they are working they are unable to go out on a search; I was just wondering what others' thoughts on this are. I am still in training and therefore not operative yet, but it should only be a matter of months. All input welcome!

I am freelance and work from home.

[Edited at 2007-04-18 08:27]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:24
Italian to English
+ ...
Wow! Apr 18, 2007

Good for you! I'm impressed.

Anyway, I'd say that you should limit your availability to when you're not working - or at the very least, don't risk missing any deadlines due to your volunteer work. At the end of the day, your business is what keeps you with a roof over your head and bread on the table - I don't think you should let your volunteer activities get in the way of that, however worthy they may be. You might get away with skipping a deadline once with a longstanding, understanding client, but do it twice and they'll just find themselves a more reliable translator.


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Michał Szcześniewski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 04:24
English to Polish
+ ...
could have been in similar situation Apr 18, 2007

Hi Fiona,

I am a volunteer translator/interpreter for an organisation doing dog-human therapy. Some of its members (with their dogs) are also in a special group that is supposed to help the families of plane crash victims. I was taking part in trainings to be included in that group, but eventually decided to leave that (the perspective of facing people who lost their loved ones seemed too much for me...).
Anyway, I knew I could be called at short notice if anything happened and some translation deadlines would need to be postponed. I thought how to solve the issue and I think you (i) should inform your customers that something like that may happen and (2) in the case of such event actually taking place provide some kind of back-up (a trusted colleague; but that needs to be agreed upon with the customer in advance).

Hope you find that helpful

regards,
Michał


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 04:24
Swedish to English
+ ...
A matter of priorities... Apr 18, 2007

To state the obvious - how would your conscience feel about missing a deadline compared to leaving someone trapped under a collapsed building? I know which one I consider to be most important.

Do you have some kind of on-call rotation? Couldn't you inform your clients that you are on call during a particular week so that there is a risk of work being disrupted? You could also make sure that you have the opportunity to text/e-mail customers from your mobile and send them a short message to let them know that you have been called out, but remembering to do so in the adrenaline rush might be a problem! (I know from experience that things tend to happen fast once the call goes out).


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:24
French to English
+ ...
just one more thing to organize! Apr 18, 2007

I agree with Clare - if forced to choose between a translation and saving a life, there is no choice!

In your shoes, what I would do is line up a couple of colleagues (tried and tested of course) that you could call upon if you find yourself in that conundrum. Then you could fulfill both responsibilities to the best of your ability.

How does that sound?

Cheers,

Patricia


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:24
Dutch to English
+ ...
Difficult but not impossible Apr 18, 2007

Not wholly dissimilar to a mother juggling translation work, with a new-born baby at home. If the baby is running a high fever and having convulsions, the priority is clear and she has to get to the hospital.

However, you've chosen to do this volunteer work and even though it's very admirable, it wouldn't (normally) constitute a "force majeure event" between you and your translation customer if you were unable to deliver because of it.

So, in addition to what Marie, Claire and Patricia have suggested, I'd also say:

(1) make sure you build-in added flexibility to your deadlines when you're on-call (if you'd normally need 2 working days to complete a job, try and organise 3 or 4);

(2) don't take on very long jobs over that period, try and stick to shorter jobs of around the 2,000 word mark - i.e. keep your income coming in but don't put your customer at unnecessary risk. Explain you're on-call and they'll either agree it's best you don't do the big one or give you more time, but state you're able to help with rush jobs, smaller jobs instead; and

(3) make sure you're on top of your work as best possible during that time, e.g. if you normally start work at 8 a.m., consider starting at 6 a.m. Use every available minute and if no calls come in, use the time to catch up on sleep.

I agree let your clients know, at least those you have a long-standing relationship with and/or have a colleague or two on standby to help out.

Time will tell how busy you can expect to be on call and you'll learn to juggle the two activities - but as Marie said, it's the translation work that's keeping a roof over your head.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2007-04-18 10:09]


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sound advice Apr 18, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Not wholly dissimilar to a mother juggling translation work, with a new-born baby at home. If the baby is running a high fever and having convulsions, the priority is clear and she has to get to the hospital.

However, you've chosen to do this volunteer work and even though it's very admirable, it wouldn't (normally) constitute a "force majeure event" between you and your translation customer if you were unable to deliver because of it.

So, in addition to what Marie, Claire and Patricia have suggested, I'd also say:

(1) make sure you build-in added flexibility to your deadlines when you're on-call (if you'd normally need 2 working days to complete a job, try and organise 3 or 4);

(2) don't take on very long jobs over that period, try and stick to shorter jobs of around the 2,000 word mark - i.e. keep your income coming in but don't put your customer at unnecessary risk. Explain you're on-call and they'll either agree it's best you don't do the big one or give you more time, but state you're able to help with rush jobs, smaller jobs instead; and

(3) make sure you're on top of your work as best possible during that time, e.g. if you normally start work at 8 a.m., consider starting at 6 a.m. Use every available minute and if no calls come in, use the time to catch up on sleep.

br>
[Edited at 2007-04-18 10:09]


I couldn't agree more. This was good solid, practical advice. There's no easy solution. You have to plan on always having plan A and B.


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Navy Huang
China
Local time: 10:24
English to Chinese
+ ...
Should one's own life be sacrificed for something that actually can be partaken of by others Apr 18, 2007

Volunteer while living a generally normal life is ok for me but not "sacrificing" too much. "Jump into the water to save someone's life even you do not know how to swim" is a message delivered by Chinese mass media in recent years, which may seem silly but bloody true. In my opinion, we give a hand when we have an extra hand to give, so we still have one hand left and can ensure that ourselves will not become new problems needing help from others.

Anyway, good luck.

Huang Haijun


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:24
English to French
+ ...
Help when you can afford to Apr 19, 2007

I totally feel what you mean, Fiona!

I would love to be in your shoes and at the same time I would hate it

You translate primarily to make a living. You participate in rescue operations for fun (which includes honour, altruism, making a difference, being useful, etc.). The most important thing, as much as you like to give, is to get your own life to work out - and that takes money. I don't think I'd give up a deadline or a contract for this. But I don't think I should feel bad about that either. I can only take care of others once I've taken care of myself.

When you can afford to go on rescue missions, go for it - it's great! But when you are stuck with a contract, stick with it. Ther will always be times when you'll be available to help others. Don't feel bad - you are already doing much more than most of us!

Edit: I just remembered something someone told me a few years back. You don't have to save the world - just do what you can, and if things don't turn out like they were supposed to, well, you've done what you could. Life goes on! The problem most of us have is our conscience is not well because we know we could have done more. But if you can just limit yourself to helping a single person, you have already done plenty. You don't have to save everybody - reach out to a single person. If everybody did, there wouldn't be anything wrong with this world. Of course, if you can reach out to many people, go ahead and do it. But don't feel bad because you didn't do more than you did. I thik, Fiona, that you are wondering about this issue because of your conscience. Of course, saving a life or a soul is more important and goes a much longer way than respecting a deadline. But you do that for the community. You also need to do things for yourself. As selfish as it may sound, you come first, and if there is some left for others, it's OK to give. A lot of people wouldn't need your help if they would have taken care of themselves properly. Your conscience should be fine, because what you already do already matters a lot. In fact, if you gave just an hour of your time per month to this cause, you would already be giving a lot to the community. Trust me - you are doing fine and you shouldn't feel guilty for wanting to make your client feel happy for once.

[Edited at 2007-04-19 02:52]


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Catherine Brix
Local time: 04:24
Swedish to English
+ ...
Congratulations Fiona, Apr 19, 2007

You're in for a treat - training search and rescue with man's (and probably your) best friend is a fabulous way to bond with you dog and learn to read and interpret his/her every move. I did this for a while with my shepard. Practice and instruction every weekend plus 2-3 evenings a week. We were however never sent to a live situation. I know people who've been volunteers for 15-20 years but only been sent out once on a live assignment. Because the thing is, you and your dog are volunteers - that means you're amatuers. Volunteers are called in as backup after the resources of the military, policy, fire department, etc have been exhausted or as a complement for large-scale searches.

Trained professionals - dogs and handlers alike - are humblingly effective and time efficient. Amatuers are passionate and clumpsy. Obviously.

You should train and learn passionately with your dog. Enjoy every challenge and the chance to grow together. But when it comes to worrying about merging your profession as a professional with your volunteer activities as an amatuer, I'd suggest you adopt "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it" attitude since chances are probably good that you'll never have to put in practice what you learn. For which you should probably be grateful, in more ways than one.

All the best
Catherine

[Edited at 2007-04-19 12:51]


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:24
Member
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone Apr 20, 2007

I just wanted to thank everyone who took the time to reply to my question; you've given me a lot of different perspectives on the situation, and lots of excellent advice. Good organisation is obviously the key, as is building in more flexibility to my deadlines and having trusted colleagues as backup. I was especially moved by your post, Victoria - wise words indeed, and a very balanced outlook.

For Catherine... while we as a group don't get called out every day, it certainly happens more often than once every 15-20 years!!! In fact we've had two major live situations since Christmas of last year, both of which I would have been involved in had I been operative. I wouldn't even have posted my query had I not thought it was a serious concern.

Thanks again everyone


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:24
English to Hungarian
+ ...
More comment Apr 23, 2007

I am sure you will be able to work out how to deal with this situation. If you have a "regular slot" per week or month when they can call on your services if the need arrises then you can cater for this to a certain extent.

On the other hand, I wouldn't necessarily do this:
Lawyer-Linguist wrote:
don't take on very long jobs over that period, try and stick to shorter jobs of around the 2,000 word mark - i.e. keep your income coming in but don't put your customer at unnecessary risk. Explain you're on-call and they'll either agree it's best you don't do the big one or give you more time, but state you're able to help with rush jobs, smaller jobs instead;


...because small jobs, particularly rush jobs have shorter turnaround, and it makes them more difficult to deliver in time if you re called out on a particular day.
If anything, big jobs are easier to handle, because you are more likely to be able to negotiate a more generous deadline, and if you are diligent, you can make up for lost time in the days left for you to finish that particular job.

Anyway, you can't expect your clients to send just short or just long jobs for a certain period. What you can do is negotiate a decent time to do them.

I have to comment on this as well.
Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
A lot of people wouldn't need your help if they would have taken care of themselves properly.


If life was that simple, we wouldn't be discussing this issue, and if we all started making such judgements then nobody would go out to help their fellow human beings.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:24
English to French
+ ...
Ahem... I think I was misunderstood... Apr 25, 2007

juvera wrote:

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
A lot of people wouldn't need your help if they would have taken care of themselves properly.


If life was that simple, we wouldn't be discussing this issue, and if we all started making such judgements then nobody would go out to help their fellow human beings.



Erm, I think you got it all wrong.

The above is not a judgment at all. I meant to point out that by taking care of yourself, you can avoid being a burden on somebody else. A good example is a person who doesn't change the smoke detector batteries. Despite not purposedly putting themselves in a life-threatening situation, they become a burden on somebody because they didn't take care of themselves properly. Nobody deserves to die for not changing the batteries - but if everybody did the minimum (most of us don't), there wouldn't be so many people in need of help.

So, one has to be careful not to neglect his/her own life to help others because that may well turn around completely and s/he could suddenly find him/herself on the other side of the court. I was trying to warn Fiona on this - if she put herself in a financially fragile situation because she cares too much for others and not enough for herself, she may be putting herself in a situation where she wouldn't be able to help others anymore as she would then herself be in need. It's simply a question of balance...


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