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Half of all Refugees and Immigrants Need Interpreters. Now They Have Tarjimly

“Refugees constantly struggle with language barriers and so do the humanitarians trying to support them,” shares Atif Javed, Co-Founder & Executive Director at Tarjimly. Tarjimly solves this problem by offering a mobile application that connects people in need with volunteer translators on demand.

From a young age, Javed learned that privileges came with understanding and speaking various languages. “My grandmother was a refugee and she depended on me and my brother to translate for her. We were just 10 and 15-year-old interpreters, and this is the experience of so many immigrants” says Javed.

After earning his degree in Material Science & Engineering at MIT and working in Silicon Valley, Javed along with Aziz Alghunaim, Co-Founder at Tarjimly, saw the ever-present need for a translation service–especially during the Syrian refugee crisis. “The xenophobia towards people fleeing for safety was shocking, and as a Muslim, I felt compelled to help,” shares Javed.

(Tarjimly team sharing Tarjimly app with a community of refugees in Athens, Greece)

Thousands of Syrians migrated to Europe due to war and conflict in their home country. After volunteering in Greece and Turkey, Javed and Alghunaim thought there must be a more sustainable way to support immigrant populations. “We could volunteer for two to three weeks, or we could build a platform that allows the three billion bilinguals around the world, including people part of the diaspora communities, to help as translators for these people in need,” says Javed.

Over 22,000 humanitarians and refugees are signed up and looking to connect on Tarjimly. The app is available in over 80 languages and the average wait time for a translator is 86 seconds. 

“Machine learning is focused on getting you the right translator at the right time for the right situation. Tarjimly tells volunteers the time expected of them, language, dialect, and background information of the person who needs help,” explains Javed. Session topics can range from medical needs, to document translation, to even asylum support.

Micro-volunteerism is a core tenant of Tarjimly’s success. “We as a world can do way more if we had good systems to deploy our skills for people in need. I have been a volunteer in many capacities and it’s always made so hard. There’s a lot of coordination, routing, and training inefficiencies that make it difficult to be a sustained volunteer. Our technology minimizes all of that thrash,” says Javed.

(Community volunteer in Uganda calling a Tarjimly translator to help a refugee woman at a local health clinic)

He adds, “Today, you can post on social media or donate money into a black box where you barely see the impact of your dollar. We’re giving you the ability to plug into the scenario directly anywhere in the world with your unique skill.”

The nonprofit, which Javed identifies as a language access and justice organization, was founded in 2017 and has impacted communities around the world. “Our users reported that 51% of their beneficiaries would not be effectively served without Tarjimly. That means if I’m a doctor, case worker, or asylum attorney, literally half of the people I serve NEED on-demand interpretation services - a stat that’s barely measured or reported anywhere,” states Javed.

Tarjimly works with a variety of humanitarian organizations like the International Rescue Committee, World Relief, and USA Hello, as well as corporations like Boeing, Amazon, and Twilio.

There are three options available to use Tarjimly’s app. Essentials is free and is ideal for refugees and people in immediate need to have access to the app on their phones. Tarjimly Premium is focused on individual humanitarians who can make an account and pay $25 per month for unlimited access, extra features, and professional translators. Platinum are customized contracts and services for large humanitarian organizations and government agencies.

Tarjimly is on a quest to make a lasting change no matter where it is deployed. Aside from volunteer translators, Tarjimly Talent empowers, trains, and hires refugee translators to become high-quality professional remote interpreters for rarer languages. With a constrained supply of translators worldwide, this is groundbreaking Javed shares. “We are working on a model that will radically increase the number of translators in the world, and not only that, now we can build a path to economic empowerment of refugees as translators.”

Javed concludes, “Our mission began with refugees, but by no means does it end there. Our model can dramatically improve the efficiency of the entire humanitarian sector.”

Tarjimly, a 2022 Solver team and 2023 Elevate Prize Winner, is making a meaningful impact around the world. If you are eager to support innovative solutions like Tarjimly, learn how to get involved with Solve now


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