Alexandria Column: Offering Translation Services for Adults in Need

Alexandria Column: Offering Translation Services for Adults in Need

Commentary-Community Lodgings

This is the second in a five-part series about Community Lodgings’ programs and services to the Alexandria community.

"Buenas tardes. Nos gustaría establecer una reunión para discutir el comportamiento de su hijo en la escuela." ("Good afternoon. We would like to set up a meeting to discuss your child's behavior in school.")

Imagine your child handing you that note and you do not speak or understand Spanish. The note is on school letterhead and looks important. What do you do?

You call or visit Community Lodgings.

"We have drop-in hours which provides opportunities for community members to receive services," said Melanie Ficke, director of Community Lodgings' Youth Education Program. "The support Community Lodgings offers is culturally competent, bilingual and geographically accessible for many families, making it a natural place for people to come to when they need assistance. People that reach out for assistance are assured friendly, thoughtful, and competent services."

While our adult drop-in support is perhaps our least-known service, it is a lifeline to the parents and adults in the communities we serve, particularly for those adults who do not speak or understand English.

Most of our drop-in support is available at each of our three learning center sites — Brent Place Apartments in Alexandria's West End, and the New Brookside Apartments and the Fifer Learning Center in Arlandria. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each weekday and by appointment, our Community Lodgings bilingual staff helps community adults with translation, school enrollment, job searches, referrals to other community based agencies and other services. Adults may also use Community Lodgings' computers for internet support, printing and faxing.

Translation is an especially important service. In the last year Community Lodgings has translated legal documents, IRS and insurance claims, utility notices, leases complaints, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/Electronic Benefits Transfer (SNAP/EBT) applications.

Additionally, we employ one part-time bilingual staff member, Cindy Lopez, to liaise with the parents of the students enrolled in our Youth Education program and the Alexandria City Public School teachers. Lopez, who grew up in Arlandria, assists parents when their child has behavior issues at school, and helps them navigate school registration, field trips and other communications between the parent and the teacher.

And what do our clients say when we are able to help them?

"Gracias. Muy amable," they tell us over and over. "Thank you. You are very kind."

Jane Collins is the Community Lodgings communications/volunteer coordinator. You can reach her at or 703-549-4407.