Technology breaks language barrier for Sumter mother in need

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As the first checks came in for The Sumter Item’s annual Summer of Caring fundraiser to benefit Sumter United Ministries, an employee at the nonprofit shared a story about a mother’s need for help.

Summer of Caring, now in its sixth year, donates all proceeds to SUM so it can continue to help serve clients in need of emergency shelter, food, education, clothing and other vital yet often costly amenities we all need.

A woman arrived with her toddler recently to the Crisis Relief Ministry with an eviction notice, said Director Kevin Howell. Her live-in boyfriend had acted violently toward her and was subsequently arrested and deported.

“The client has no other family or friends in the area. Though she is a citizen of the U.S., she does not speak English. I would suspect she knew less than 10 words in English from my interaction with her,” Howell said. “The police brought her to us asking if we could help, and the onset of the interview was extremely challenging. After canvassing the entire ministry office in search of a volunteer or staff person fluent in Spanish, we were left with no options.”

Enter the benefit of technology.

Using Google Translate, Howell sat with the woman and typed his questions, which were translated to Spanish on the screen.

“I shared my heartfelt compassion for how alone and abandoned she must feel. Can you imagine how strange it must be to not be able to communicate with many people around you?” Howell said. “She cried at reading those words, and the anxiety of her circumstances was visible on her face.”

Howell obtained the information the ministry needed to help her, and it was able to offer her financial assistance to ensure she has shelter for at least another 30 days.

“As I concluded the interview, I typed these words: ‘I am going to pray for you. I know you will not understand what I am praying, but I believe God knows the languages of all our hearts.’ She cried a little more as we thanked God for overcoming every obstacle and satisfying her greatest need,” Howell said. “In my 14 years as the director of the Crisis Relief Ministry, this was a completely new experience for me, and it could not have been more rewarding. For all the encouragement and care the client received, I felt that I was far the richer for the experience.”

Donations last week through Monday, June 17, 2019, include:

Bush and Nancy Hanson, $50; in memory of W.M. (Boots) Tisdale, from Jane Tisdale, $100; anonymously, $100.

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