Hamadi Mukoma lights up when he talks about his work at MAMI Interpreters. His passion doesn’t go unnoticed.
“It’s important to me to help others around the community because I understand the struggle that some may have,” said Mukoma.”
MAMI (originally the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters of Central New York, Inc) is a nonprofit civil rights organization that prides itself in offering Limited-English Proficient (LEP) persons better access to health care, legal and social services.
Mukoma came to the United States in September of 2003. He was born in Somalia, but fled to Kenya with his family as refugees in 1989 during the Somalian Civil War. The father of six began to work with MAMI as a freelance interpreter in 2006. In 2008, the organization hired him as a part-time interpreter.
His services are often in high demand. His calendar is booked several months out and he is a common figure gracing hospital and court halls. He is a calming force between doctor and patient, an educator in most cases, too, explaining culture on both sides. He carefully explains that in the United States, everyone has freedom of speech and the right to get the proper medical care; in most cases, the people he serves come from countries that suppress basic human rights.
“When refugees come to the United States, they don’t know what their rights when seeking services,” said Mukoma. “They’re scared to speak up here because they were not given these rights by their government in their country.”
New Americans also face difficulty understanding the laws of a new land. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), domestic abuse and sexual harassment laws are not common in many of their home countries, causing confusion, Mukoma notes.
“When I go to court, I see people struggle because they don’t know the law here,” said Mukoma. “For many, they don’t know that what they’re doing is against the law here because no one taught them. There is a significant language barrier.”
As a multilingual interpreter who speaks Swahili, Somali and Maay Maay, Mukoma is a real asset to Syracuse’s refugee and immigrant community. He is eager to develop his skills and says he values the relationships he has made over the years through his work in the hospitals and courts.
Mukoma praises the work MAMI Interpreters does and emphasizes just how important its work is.