Ayuda’s Language Access Program exists so that anyone can get help when they need it, regardless of the languages they use to communicate. A big part of how we pursue this goal is by training interpreters on how to work in a victim services or a legal setting. Our trainings help grow the talent pool for local nonprofits and pro bono lawyers seeking language access support for those they serve – but they also have a meaningful impact for our interpreters, creating lifelong immigrant champions.  

Andrew “Drew” Bahr’s Ayuda story is a great example of the Language Access Program’s ripple effect. Drew first came upon Ayuda as a legal intern in May 2015. We were fortunate to have him return in 2016, working as an interpreter until 2019. In 2020, Drew began teaching Ayuda’s “Language of Justice” training, a role he hopes to continue for many years.  

We sat down with Drew to learn more about his time with Ayuda and why he is passionate about language access. We hope you find his journey as inspiring as we do:  

How did you come to be involved with Ayuda?  

A law professor first recommended I intern there. I then worked with Paula Fitzgerald who was the managing attorney for the Virginia Ayuda office, and she recommended I look into interpreting. I owe much of this to her! 

What does language access mean to you? What role do you believe it has in Ayuda’s mission?  

Language access is an integral part of human dignity and basic rights. If a government, non-profit, or company cannot communicate with someone and does not provide language access, then that person cannot access those services with dignity. Ayuda is a bedrock language access provider in the DC region because it provides more non-courtroom legal interpreting and trauma-informed interpreting to nonprofits and government than anyone else I know. Interpreters also see Ayuda as a great organization because they are reliable and only hire qualified interpreters. 

What are some of your most memorable moments or experiences from working with the language access team?  

That’s a hard question because there are so many good possible answers! I would say that working with the language access team is always a positive experience because everyone works well together and cares about each other, interpreting trainees, and contract interpreters. If there’s a problem, they will go the extra mile to help you. 

In your view, how is the language access program at Ayuda unique? 

Ayuda is by far the largest legal and trauma-informed interpreter bank I know of. As an interpreter, I loved having so many distinct assignments. I would be at an immigration intake clinic one day, a legal aid clinic the next, and a white shoe law firm the next day. At Ayuda assignments I have worked with psychologists, lawyers, law enforcement, foster care providers, expert witnesses, and more. 

What does “Ayuda” mean to you?  

Ayuda is a nonprofit that stands for quality, accessible legal aid and language access for immigrants. 

Today, Drew is a solo immigration attorney based in Woodbridge, Virginia. In his own words: “My experience with Ayuda helped me get the courage to be a trial lawyer! I met many attorneys I still look up to in this line of work, and it inspired me.”  

You can find Drew online by visiting his website.  

Want to get involved in Ayuda’s Language Access Program? Consider applying for our upcoming “Breaking the Silence” training, a free six-day hybrid training course that teaches interpreters skills needed to work directly with crime victims. Find out whether the course is right for you here, and make sure to apply by January 6, 2023.