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Amandine Martin’s MATI ’14 first professional assignment, after graduating with a degree in translation and interpretation, was at the Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) implemented by Meridian International Center and funded by the U.S. Department of State. The program brings high school students from different African nations to the United States to learn about social entrepreneurship and American culture. The students also create action plans for small projects that they would like to implement at home. Furthermore, if they submit grant applications, they have the opportunity to earn seed funding for their projects.

“I find these high school students incredibly inspiring,” says Martin who has returned to PAYLP two more times as an interpreter, always with a fellow recent Institute graduate as her partner. “Every time, I make new friends.” Martin, who grew up in France, moved to the United States as a child and has always loved languages. She loves her new career as a freelance translator and interpreter, taking on projects for the State Department and various other clients.

She particularly enjoys having the opportunity to discover new places and meet new people that it is hard to imagine she would have crossed paths with otherwise. “I found myself explaining to high school students from all over French-speaking Africa how to pitch a business idea,” she shares as an example, adding that shortly after that she was wearing a bullet-proof vest while interpreting instructions to police forces on a shooting range, “even though up until that point I had never studied business or held a gun in my life.”

After interpreting at the PAYLP program in October 2014, Martin stayed in touch with a student named Ravi who is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As he is a very determined student, Martin was surprised to learn that he did not receive funding for his project. When she realized that the problem was that he could not communicate in English, she offered to translate his application for him.

“I was extremely impressed,” Martin says. Ravi wanted to raise awareness about sorting household waste, offer a waste removal service for a small fee, and collect glass jars and bottles, clean them, sanitize them, and sell them to small businesses that needed them. In his application he wrote about plans to cooperate with a business incubator, included a detailed budget, a list of potential clients (individuals and organizations), and came up with a way to generate money to make his project self-sustainable. Martin further facilitated communications by translating emails back and forth. Ravi got his funding last December.

“Once I saw results, I decided to keep translating and help more students from my first PAYLP group getting funding.” The process has been simplified a little and Martin has already helped her friend Dolo from Mali obtain funding for a project aimed at helping poor families afford to send their children to school, and Lydie from the DRC who wants to teach vegetable growers improve crop-yield. A classmate from the Institute followed her example and translated a grant application for two PAYLP students who would like to purchase books and other supplies to start an English Club in their hometown.

Martin recently attended a Third Thursday Middlebury Institute alumni event in Washington D.C. and connected with alumni who work in the field of social entrepreneurship and through those connections found more support for her friends. When she was helping Ravi with his application he kept asking when she would come visit him. She finally accepted his invitation and is heading to the DRC in a few weeks to visit him, Lydie, and other students from PAYLP. “I look forward to seeing them all again, and will hopefully get the chance to participate in their projects!”

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir