Last year my 10-year-old blind daughter, Alexia, won an award as Cambridge Young Achiever of the Year and, since she has always wanted to be an interpreter, she chose for her prize a trip to Brussels where she could shadow an interpreter for a day. That’s the background to our trip.
After a smooth, uneventful journey, we booked into our hotel, a magnificent one and all paid for by the European Parliament.
The next day was extremely busy. We started by meeting quite a few interpreters, all lovely people, and also the Head of Training for all the interpreting in Brussels who was to show Alexia around. We also met our MEP, Robert Sturdy, who had actually set up the trip.
Then we all trooped off to an environmental committee meeting where Alexia was to try her hand at interpreting. While she was doing that with the Head of Training, I was sitting in a dummy booth listening to the debate. We caught the end of one on food labeling and packaging in Europe and the beginning of another on restrictions to be imposed on the importation of Japanese foodstuffs after the nuclear accident, both of which were fascinating. One thing which interested me was seeing a baby asleep on a Member’s shoulder while he was actually speaking. I was told later that he was a Swedish MEP who was out to make the point about how Swedish fathers have to look after their children no matter where.
Later in the day, after a lot more meetings and interviews with the Press, we met the Deputy Head of Cabinet of the President of the European Parliment in his huge office overlooking Brussels who presented a fantastic medal to Alexia, which is normally reserved only for visiting Heads of State.
When we arrived back in England we were told that the story had been broadcast on ITN news the previous night and we realized that the journalists who had been following Alexia around all day had done a quick turnaround job. We later managed to find it through a link we were sent. She has since been in the national Press.
It was a wonderful experience for all of us but especially for Alexia, who is now more determined than ever to become an interpreter. If you consider children under the age of 14 are never normally even allowed into the Parliament building, it puts into perspective how astounding the whole day was for her. We were treated like royalty from start to finish from start to finish and what surprised me the most was the fact that so many important people had given up their very limited time to accompany us throughout the day.
Here is a link to the local news broadcast about the trip. Unfortunately I think this is only viewable in Britain.
Just found this link for Alexia from the Daily Mail. They got most of their facts wrong as usual!
Here are some cute pictures of Alexia “interpreting”!