After studying in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries for several years, Katie Bailey returned to Indiana knowing one thing: She wanted to meet and support her immigrant neighbors living in the Indianapolis community. With prior experience translating and interpreting for legal issues through an internship, Katie sought out an organization to utilize her many skills. Soon, she began to volunteer for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.
Now, four years later, Katie is the inaugural winner of the United Way of Central Indiana Volunteer of the Year ELEVATE award and she serves as the Clinic’s Spanish Team Lead. According to Katie, this role consists of being the central point of contact for all Spanish language volunteer needs of the Clinic. This involves many tasks, such as finding someone to interpret at an intake session, helping to gather several volunteers for a bigger event like a Naturalization Day, or coordinating people to help translate documents.
Katie’s team consists of over 50 volunteers who have been vetted for their Spanish-speaking abilities. The large size of the team gives Katie flexibility with new projects assigned to her by Volunteer Coordinator Kathleen Bloxsome, allowing her to find the help she needs, oftentimes even on short notice. “I remember feeling nervous about being able to complete the translation of multiple documents within a short amount of time,” she says. But after various emails were sent back and forth, Katie identified enough people to finish the translations—and quickly. “It has been interesting how much collaboration and coordination can be accomplished virtually.”
More often than not, Katie finds interpreting and translating for the Clinic to be an emotionally moving experience. “Almost every legal case involves a person's intimate, and often difficult story. Many of the cases I have interpreted or translated for involve abuse, discrimination, persecution, perilous journeys, and other scary events,” she says. “Many cases involve families with adorable young children who I have had the opportunity to meet. All of these people and their stories have left a lasting impression on me.”
Indeed, the Mission of the Clinic resonates with Katie on many different levels. She knows how confusing the law is and how expensive legal representation can be. “Our legal system also has many points at which an unprepared person can be exploited,” Katie says. “Therefore, it is very important to me to support an organization like [the Clinic] that helps disenfranchised folks navigate the legal system and protect their rights.”
Katie is marveled by the people she serves. “Many of [the Clinic's] clients have accomplished so much in their lives and gone through difficulties I can't comprehend,” she says. “They are worthy of all of the help in the world and I am honored to have contributed to improving their situations in a small way.”
To learn more about volunteering for the Clinic, please visit our website.