Cards for humanity

How do you ask for help when you don’t speak the language?

A new Kelowna company is looking to solve a problem faced by many recent Syrian refugees in Canada.

Karen Rauser and Heidi Smith began developing a communication card set over the past several months, which would give translations between Arabic and English.

“It’s basically to enable communication, especially between the Syrian refugees and any Canadian people who are helping them who don’t know any Arabic,” Smith said.

The cards, which have many key phrases and terms that come in handy when trying to communicate, are designed to allow Canadians the chance to talk to new arrivals.

The pair launched a Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of January and raised just under $2,000 in under a month.

They received an initial order of 70 sets, which have been recently shipped out all over B.C., and even as far as Toronto.

Rauser is a local ESL teacher, who taught Smith in a teaching-ESL course. Both have linguistic backgrounds.

Smith was able to see their cards in action a few months ago when a Syrian family arrived at the Kelowna airport.

The family was sponsored by Fresh Start Kelowna, a group of like-minded individuals who wanted to sponsor a family. Rauser is a part of Fresh Start.

“We got to try these, the early forms,” Smith said. “We were trying some of the basic phrases, and they were like ‘How do you know how to say what’s my name?’ It was a bit of an ice breaker.”

Smith says they are looking to expand on their first basic card set, and include an audio component on their website in the future.

They are also looking to create a set specifically designed for the medical and mental health field.

“That would be hopefully helpful for the medical community when they’re working with them,” Smith said. “If you can’t communicate at all, it’s really hard to help them.”


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