SIS Celebrates 25 Years!

We had a wonderful 25 year celebration and AGM on 28th February 2020!

Central to our success is the dedication of SIS Linguists.  They were at the centre of our event. The Mayor, Councillor Alexandra Phillips, and Bert Williams MBE, President of Brighton & Hove Black History, and long-serving SIS member, presented Awards to 48 Community Interpreters, Volunteer Linguists, Bilingual Community Navigators and Bilingual Advocates.  Both spoke eloquently;  The Mayor about the empathy and professionalism of SIS, Bert Williams about the historical significance of interpreting.

The photographs show how proud we are of all the Linguists and how motivated they are to do their very best.  Several people described how the evening felt like an `Oscars` Night for Linguists!

SIS `provides language support at the heart of our communities`.  We have developed our `Big Heart Service Map` to help everyone understand our support offer.  Our Chair Jen Henwood explains:

Heart suggests the centre, the hub, the core, the nucleus. In addition, I like to think that the use of the word heart, as opposed to one of those alternatives, also brings with it connotations of compassion, humanity and courage. SIS seeks to build a community and communities which respect and celebrate difference and diversity, whilst recognising our connectedness and common humanity.

We heard about how SIS is a World Service with a World Class Net Promoter Score.  How we have provided a thirty fold increase in interpreting over 25 years – 200,000 sessions in total!  We received requests to help 4489 people during 2018-19, 1500 of whom registered for the first time.

We drew attention to the changes experienced by those who need language support, comparing 1994 to today.  We shared 3 local examples of what people had to endure in 1994, before SIS:

  • A newly arrived refugee woman endured an extremely painful biopsy without any pain medication. She believed she couldn’t ask for pain medication and was too embarrassed to ask for an interpreter
  • A seven year old was asked to tell his mother that her foetus had died in utero
  • Hospital staff used the abuser’s best friend to interpret for the abused woman

Today our Service Users tell us;

With a SIS interpreter helping me, I can concentrate on the important issues such as understanding fully my child’s condition and medication.   It also helps to relieve tension between me and the service provider because the message gets across smoothly.

In the past I was not aware of my rights or how to ask for an explanation. Now I am able to ask and discuss certain issues…My confidence came from having used SIS.

We like to hear the stories of people who use our services. This year we heard from Fernanda;

Without the interpreter’s help, I think my baby, Matthew, might not have survived. I feel that the SIS emergency service saved my son’s life, and possibly mine too.

You can read Fernanda`s full story here:

We heard movingly from a recently arrived Syrian refugee who thanked SIS and Voices in Exile for the support he has received.

Several of the 134 people attending also used Post-It Notes to record messages:

SIS supports us to have quality and dignity in our life… Saying thank you to SIS is always not enough to express our appreciations…  We can have an independent life (no need to depend on other people) because of the interpreting services…  Thanks for helping us to access all government services… Happy 25th Anniversary!(Chinese Elders Group)

SIS is an inclusive environment to work in and works tirelessly to empower service users in a supportive way.

SIS is very caring of people – I like that a lot.

It does its job but it is not afraid to speak out and campaign for people.

I have learnt so much from the SIS pool of linguists, who are always so generous with their time and knowledge.

SIS is working in solidarity with people in Sussex to be able to access services, especially health.

So what about the future of SIS?

  • We want to help more people in more ways 
  • Human Rights;
    • We remain fully committed to ensuring people`s human right to access health care
    • We are promoting the right of all migrants to free primary health care
    • We are lobbying to improve mental health services for those with complex trauma
    • We will maintain a focus on the needs of vulnerable LGBTQ Migrants
  • We will set up a Reference Group for Service Users, to give people a bigger voice
  • We will #BeMoreDigital, build a digital culture and innovate.
  • We will work with Brighton & Hove City Council which has recently signed up to be an Inclusive City.
  • We want to make a positive contribution to tackling the climate emergency

Thank you to everyone who came along to such a very very special event.

Arran – Director

Presentations are available by emailing

Thank you to Howard Davies for all photographs