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The life experiences of women who live at Interval House are as diverse as their cultural backgrounds. In 2015 alone, our residents spoke 29 different languages.
Not having English as a first language can be an extra challenge that survivors face in order to access resources and to lead an independent life away from domestic violence. At Interval House, we want to make sure that women are set up for success, and supporting them in their language learning is crucial.
This became the goal of a group of volunteers who created an in-house ESL program at Interval House. The program is highly practical as it teaches women language and grammar that allows them to navigate their everyday routines, and strengthens their capability to access health, education and employment. To learn more about the volunteer- run ESL program click here.
Being able to communicate with others at Interval House is central for women to benefit from the programs we offer. We’re lucky to have counsellors who speak many languages. They can offer services in multiple languages and provide informal interpretation.
However, we can’t always guarantee that we’ll have a counsellor on staff who can speak the language of a new resident. In these cases, we rely on the support provided by the Barbra Schlifer Clinic’s Interpreter Services Toronto. These interpretation services are specialized and highly sensitive. Interpreters are professionally trained and have knowledge about violence against women issues. Services are free of charge for service providers, provided in 200 languages and are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Interpreters come to the house for a minimum of three times a week. They are present during our weekly House Meeting, and at the Counselling Groups which take place twice a week. We welcome interpreters into Interval House because their work enables women to fully participate in activities, to express themselves clearly and to feel safe as they can use their first language to talk about their experiences and needs.
Throughout their journey from violence to independence, we want to meet women where there are at. We want to ensure that irrespective of their English language skills, they can feel understood and that they belong. We accompany them in many aspects of their journey towards empowerment; ensuring that women are being able to speak their minds, in either English or their first language. That’s what we’re here for.