Interpreter’s View

Haluk Demirbag - Interpreter
I came to England from Turkey in 1989 and started interpreting a few years later for many organisations – solicitors, courts, the NHS, government, local councils and charities working with asylum seekers and refugees. Before coming to work at Solace, I had been trained to work as an interpreter in a mental health setting, so I already had quite a bit of experience.

I started working at Solace about four years ago and the first thing I noticed was how friendly and unbureaucratic it was and still is. Clients are offered a cup of tea. It doesn’t sound much, but it’s a big thing. Trust is established. For many of the clients I have worked with at Solace, all these simple gestures and smiling faces are so important to them.

One of the things I learned many years ago with mental health was that trust is essential for the client to open up. If the client doesn’t open up then it is difficult to work with them on their mental health issues and everyone is wasting their time. There is no sense of any hierarchy at Solace. Everybody is treated the same. It’s like family and that in itself makes them feel better. It’s not just me saying this, many of the clients, I know, feel the same. I have worked with quite a few of the therapists at Solace over the years. They work in different ways but what they all have in common is their dedication. They will always go that extra mile, particularly for people in crisis. Staff and volunteers are very strong advocates for their clients. They will go to court with a client if they think it will make a difference, even if it is just to provide moral support.

The effect of all this support on clients can be dramatic. Most of them have suffered from persecution, and for the first time, they feel listened to, they feel as if someone cares, which is therapeutic in itself. It’s not always easy being an interpreter for people who are seriously distressed. I have seen people come to Solace on the edge of mental and physical collapse. I can find it quite disturbing. But on a number of occasions I have seen people at the end of their tether when they walk into Solace, completely transformed by the end of a therapy session, when they are calm and relaxed. That makes the clients feel that what you do here is amazing.

I get enormous satisfaction just by being associated with the work you do at Solace. It’s so uplifting to work in a place where people actually care about other human beings; where you make a real difference to the lives of the people that come here for help.

Haluk Demirbag