Eddy Sihavong’s ’14 work with the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters (MAMI) this summer holds a particular personal significance. Growing up, he often assisted his mother with translation, unaware of organizations like MAMI that strive to ensure limited-English-proficient speakers have equal access to skilled language and cultural aid. In the first month of his fellowship, Eddy is already realizing the importance of professionally trained interpreters so that an exact “word for word” conversation can take place between the customer and client. He is currently reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which emphasizes the necessity of trained interpreters in the fields of medicine and law by recounting the story of a Hmong family’s relationship with a hospital in California. Eddy’s projects this summer will primarily focus on strengthening MAMI’s marketing to ensure all community members are aware of their right to a trained interpreter.
Cornelia Brown, Ph.D., Executive Director, founded MAMI Interpreters in 1998 with the intention of supporting Central New York’s refugee communities. The organization offers courses to support refugees’ literacy and job skill development, with classes ranging from driving safety to domestic violence prevention. MAMI also provides training for its interpreters who are available 24/7, as well as courses in medical training and court interpreting. It is very integrated into Oneida County, making sure interpreters are available at events that focus on disaster preparedness and the elimination of racism. MAMI also has offices in Albany and Syracuse.
While Eddy attends out of office meetings from time to time, he spends most of his days working independently on the creation of a marketing database and researching grants. The marketing database will be utilized to help identify and attract new customers for MAMI. Eddy is researching entities that could benefit from the presence of interpreters, such as school districts, government offices, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, nonprofits, and small businesses. He is also including organizations that have accessed MAMI’s services in 2013 to create the most comprehensive database possible. Because MAMI would like to hire a mental health interpreter and marketing manager, Eddy is actively researching and reviewing grants for which the organization could apply. This project will be his primary focus once he has solidified the database.
As a student athlete, Eddy is excited to have the time and opportunity to have a professional experience this summer. He has always supported “helping out our community in any way possible” and looks forward to seeing if his work with MAMI is a field he’d like to pursue in the future. It is clear that Eddy will continue drawing upon his “strong ties with immigrant and ethnic communities” to make his summer with MAMI the most productive possible.