This essay is part of an occasional series provided by our partner organization Encore.org, which is building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world.
Read more stories and share yours at Encore.org/story.
I wanted to make a network of connections and contacts with Srilankan people, and I wanted to support them by providing opportunities to socialize and attend religious services with people who know my language and culture.
But, unfortunately, I couldn’t find many Srilankans in Waianae. I knew if I wanted to rent a house I would need money.
During recess, some students were violent towards me, because I came from a different country and lacked English knowledge.
Sometimes I felt I wanted to go back to Sri Lanka instead of staying in Hawaii.I served as a liaison between the UN and the governments of Japan and Korea and Indochinese refugees, many of whom required resettlement all over the world. Realizing there was a growing need here for my skill set, I started a business in my basement – Liaison Linguistics – to help non-English-speakers. Especially satisfying is serving the nearby Kentwood Public Schools.That became my encore career and, now, my lifework. ) I employ some 250 interpreters and translators, some of whom are fluent in as many as seven languages. Twice a year, we partner with mothers and fathers attending parent-teacher conferences.We lived for months as refugees before finally finding solace in Grand Rapids, Mich. We are involved in virtually any arena where words are spoken or written – the court system, schools, medical facilities, workplaces, and factories.(thanks to the welcoming arms of a Christian Reformed Church in the Alger Heights neighborhood). We primarily provide interpretation and written translation services, with on-site interpreting available in the Grand Rapids metro area and across Michigan.I think Hawaiian food is totally different from Sri Lankan food.I looked for a Sri Lankan restaurant to eat at, but I could not find restaurant here.Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many Srilankan people in Hawaii.Then I lived in Waianae, where I went to Waianae High School.Sometimes I wanted to ask questions to the instructors, but I felt shy and nervous, because if I said something wrong, I thought other students might laugh at me.So I was so quite in class by looking at the blackboard and the students without doing anything.