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Have you thought about donating your translation skills to support a good cause?

I am still getting feedback from colleagues all over the world after publishing the post about 10 business mistakes I made as a startup freelance translator. And one of the things I hear a lot is that there aren't enough possibilities for beginners to build their portfolio and grow in their skills, because good clients want experienced translators. As a result, they have to make their rates as low as possible to get a project and thus gain some experience.

I strongly disagree with this practice, though I made this mistake, too, in the beginning. However, there's a chance for you now to start your career differently. True, you won't earn much at first. Nobody does anyway. But you will do work that matters. Besides, you can list this experience in your CV and LinkedIn profile.

The possibility I am talking about is volunteering for different non-profit organizations and projects in different parts of the world. I started cooperating with NGOs and donating my translation services in 2008 or so. Back then, there were not so many possibilities to volunteer (or maybe I just didn't know where to look for them!). Anyway, there are quite a few of them now!

A little note for experienced translators: Though I am speaking mainly to startup translators, it's a great chance for experienced colleagues, too. That's a chance for us all to do the work that matters and make a difference in someone's life. After all, life's not all about earning money, right? ;)

So here's a list of organizations and projects for you to check out:

1. Translators Without Borders.
"Traducteurs sans Frontières (TSF) was founded in 1993 by Lori Thicke and Ros Smith-Thomas to link the world’s translators to vetted NGOs that focus on health, nutrition and education.
Today TSF's American sister non-profit organization, Translators without Borders, assists in translating more than two million words per year for NGOs such as Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), Médecins du Monde, Action Against Hunger, Oxfam US and Handicap International.
But this is not even meeting 1% of the need. There are literally thousands more organizations that need help for critical communications."
2.  Translations for Progress.
"The mission of Translations for progress is to facilitate communication within the global grass roots community and to create opportunities for language students and professionals to get involved in social issues."
3.  The Rosetta Foundation
"It’s not that information doesn’t exist at all. Often the major problem is that information doesn’t exist in the language of the recipient. You can help to change that:
The Rosetta Foundation is looking for volunteer translators and proofreaders to help translate materials for  non-profit organisations. We are looking for translators of any languages, the more the better."
 4.  Gospel Translations (for Christian translators)
That's where I volunteered for a couple years. My translations are still online, by the way!

5. Ashoka Innovators to the Public
"Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. Ashoka launched the field of social entrepreneurship and has activated multi-sector partners across the world who increasingly look to entrepreneurial talent and new ideas to solve social problems."
6. UN Online Volunteering Service
"The UNV Online Volunteering service connects volunteers with organizations working for sustainable human development."
 7. Check out ProZ job board.
Sometimes posts about volunteering opportunities are published there, too! Here's one of them for instance, published a few days ago.

8. www.idealist.org
This is a website where you can find a lot of volunteering opportunities. More than 400 were available at the time when I was writing this post.

9. Twitter Translation Center
Its mission is to make Twitter available to as many languages as possible. By the way, if you volunteer for Twitter, you will have a special badge in the shape of a globe next to your Twitter handle.

10. Go local
In most countries there are different social or religious organizations offering help to underprivileged, abused, or sick people. They need your help! And that help often includes translation of various documents for children going to a different country to undergo surgeries and other medical treatment and other kind of translation. They need your help, too!

Note: make sure you structure your schedule so you have plenty of time to actually earn money and market your services.

Good luck with your volunteering!

Olga Arakelyan
Your Professional Translator

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