Day 13
1 minute of translation at a doctor's appointment for refugees in Germany

Better understanding, faster recovery Better understanding, faster recovery

Medical care for refugees without command of the German language

Standing on the table is a model of a spine. The doctor shows Nabil how a vertebra is structured and where the stabbing pain in Nabil's back comes from. Nabil listens attentively. When the doctor has finished, they both look expectantly at Bassem, who is sitting next to them and has taken some notes. Bassem translates the doctor's words for Nabil into his native Arabic. When he first saw a doctor because of his worsening back pain, Nabil hardly understood anything. He speaks good German and can communicate in everyday life without any problems. Only at the doctor's did he have great difficulty: Terms like intervertebral discs or vertebral blockage he has never heard in everyday life. In order for Nabil to understand exactly where his back pain comes from and what he can do about it, he is accompanied by Bassem on a voluntary basis this time. Bassem translates between Nabil and the doctor to make sure they understand each other.



Interpreting for refugees at doctor's appointments.



Volunteer interpreters accompany refugees to medical appointments to translate for them.

Countable effort


Number of minutes or medical appointments during which refugees are accompanied by volunteer interpreters.



Making sure that refugees understand all the information regarding their health.

Systemic effect


Refugees have full access to health care and can make self-determined decisions about their health.


In September 2015, Munich was in the news all over the world: 20,000 refugees arrived at Munich Central Station in just one weekend (ZEIT ONLINE, 2015). Today, more than 6,000 refugees live in the city (Landeshauptstadt MĂŒnchen, 2021). They come from all over the world – from Afghanistan to Syria to Sierra Leone – and speak a wide variety of languages (Dt. Bundestag, 2020). However, learning German is a hurdle in the integration process that often persists for a long time despite numerous offers of support. Even if refugees have been living in Germany for several years and can communicate well in everyday life, technical conversations in German are a challenge for many. When it comes to important topics – such as visits to the doctor – misunderstandings can have fatal consequences: Medication may be taken incorrectly or actually the wrong diagnosis may be made. Some refugees prefer not to go to the doctor at all for fear of not understanding something or making the wrong decision. Professional interpreters who could help them are usually too expensive and difficult to find for many languages. This is where volunteer interpreters come into play: They are trained in various medical topics, accompany refugees to doctor’s appointments free of charge and thereby ensure that there are no misunderstandings or that crucial information is lost.

The good deed

With your good deed today, you make it possible for a refugee in Munich to have a doctor's visit translated into his or her native language. Even for refugees who already speak good German, complex medical topics are often difficult to understand. Volunteer interpreters therefore accompany the refugees to their doctor's appointments and translate between the patient and the medical staff. The volunteers are specially trained by professionals for their interpreting assignments. They learn strategies and techniques of interpreting as well as important terms and procedures of different medical fields. Most of them have a history of migration themselves and are able to use not only their language skills but also their cultural knowledge in their work. They make sure that patients and doctors understand each other. This enables refugees to make independent and well-informed decisions.

Munich Germany







Number of inhabitants

45,724 USD

45,724 USD

Gross domestic product per capita per year

6 of 189

6 of 189

Human Development Index

Around 1.2 million refugees live in Germany (UN Refugee Agency, 2021). About 17 million people volunteer in the social sector (Statista, 2021).