Correspondence between Babels and the ESF Board regarding reimbursement

Correspondence for the period beginning October 1st, date when the ESF had guaranteed that all interpreters would be reimbursed for their travel costs.

October 1. To: Babels ESF

Regarding BABELS reimbursements

The agreement we had was that all reimbursements would be made by the 1st of October. Unfortunately we have underestimated the administrative work with the payments and will not be able to finish all the payments by tomorrow, October 1st. For this we are very sorry. So far one third of the transfers have been made but we are working as hard, and quickly, as possible to complete the remaining part. We hope that this can be made during the coming week, but will make all transfers at least by October 31st.

We hope for your understanding and ensure that all reimbursements will be made.


The board of ESF 2008 through Elin Brusewitz

October 4. To: Elin Brusewitz (Board of the ESF 2008)

Dear Ms Brusewitz,

Your e-mail regarding Babels reimbursements has reached the distribution list of the Babels coordinators of the Malmö 2008 ESF. After having read it and arrived to a consensus, we have agreed to ask from you the following:

1. We think it is fair that all interpreters are informed of these new circumstances as soon as possible, by means of a formal letter. We will gladly forward your letter by e-mail to the interpreters involved. Please place the drafting of this letter as top priority, so that we can send it to the now worried interpreters at the start of next week.

2. It is essential that the letter explains how you intend to deal with the present situation and how you can give Babels updates every day on the progress of the reimbursement. We believe a googledocs viewable-only page would be the best solution. Should your team need advice with this, we can explain the technicalities.

3. The letter should specify exact, realistic dates and objectives that can and will be met and it should be clear that there will be no more delays. We are confident that now that you have done some of the reimbursement, you will surely be better prepared to assess the situation.

4. You will be on the receiving end of the message sent to the volunteers waiting for their reimbursement, so please make sure the message is clear, in order to best avoid a repeat of the failed communication during previous exchanges with Babels volunteers. It should be specified that there will be no further delays, in order to comfort the people who have not received their reimbursement yet and are becoming worried.


The team of Babels coordinators for Malmö 2008

October 6. To: Babels ESF

To all interpreters of the Babels network:

On behalf of the ESF board I would like to thank you for your effort during the forum, and to say that we are very sorry for the delayed reimbursements. We are doing our very best to solve this, and to make sure all interpreters are being reimbursed as soon as possible. Our goal is to finish the reimbursements this week.

This is an update on where we are right now in the process:

There is a list of interpreters that have left us with incomplete and/or non correct information regarding paypal payments or bank transfers. All of you will recieve an e-mail where we ask you to
complete, or double check and send to us again, this information. The transfers can not be made until we recieve the correct information.

Those who have left us correct information, a majority, will recieve their reimbursements the coming week.

Because of the factors above mentioned, we can not give you a new deadline.

To finish all babels reimbursements is of top priority to us. All interpreters will be reimbursed, it is not a matter of money, but of time.

Considering that, our priority is to finish the reimbursements. Updating you on each individuals status in the reimbursement process must be seen as a measure that takes time from completing the transfers.

We hope for your understanding.


The Board of ESF 2008 through Elin Brusewitz

October 9. To: Elin Brusewitz (Board of the ESF 2008)

Dear Elin,

I hope you are still alive, despite the avalanche of work.

This is a message in the name of the other coordinators.

We had suggested that you use googledocs to keep us informed of the progress of the reimbursement process. Have you tried?

If you have no time, you can send me the excel/word file, whatever it is you are using to keep track, and I will put it online myself on googledocs, so you can use it and we can keep track, without disclosing personal information, and wasting time.

In the absence of more detailed information on how things are going, we are beginning to worry, and things might quickly get out of hand. We all want to avoid problems and recriminations.

Can you send me a file with the information, or post it directly on googledocs? Can you please reply as soon as possible, and at the latest by Saturday 11?

Thanks in advance!

Yan B.

October 12. To: Elin Brusewitz (Board of the ESF 2008)


Saturday is come and gone, and I've received no update. I know you have forwarded my message to the Treasurer, but am waiting for him/her to send me the information.

What am I supposed to think/do?

Thanks for your prompt reply.


October 12. To: Babels ESF

It's me who are doing all the transfering and I don't have time to update any lists. More than 100 transfers are complete and I will continue this work later on today. Besides being responsible for the economi I also have a daytime work. The problem is that we don't have any employes and I don't know if there is anyone else that are able to find the time to do what you request.
Anders Palmqvist

October 12. To: Anders Palmqvist

Hi Anders,
Can you send an email to everytime you have finished a reimbursement, stating the name + amount reimbursed?
We really need to have updates on this, as the deadline for reimbursements is looong passed, and interpreters do not know what is going on. I know you are working a lot, but you must understand that you are not the only person concerned here.
Copying the names and amount paid will take time off from the reimbursement process, but we'd rather you took 2 hours more, rather than remain 'in the dark' without knowing what is going on.
Do you understand?

October 16. To: Anders Palmqvist


Following my email on Sunday, in which we asked you *explicitly* to take time off the reimbursement process to send us an update on who had been reimbursed, and who hadn't, we have had no reply from you. Thank you for that. It confirms what we have already seen in Malmö: you refuse to act responsibly and transparently.

We proposed you to send an email to for every person for whom you had processed a reimbursement claim. We have received no update. Have you done anything at all? How can we be sure?

We have RECEIVED NO UPDATE. We are almost ONE MONTH after the forum was finished, and we still do not have a list of who has been reimbursed. Is this normal?

NO. It is absolutely NOT NORMAL.

We are beginning to be very angry, AGAIN, faced with your sheer incompetence and lack of respect for the hard work of hundreds of volunteers.

We are expecting an answer from you IMMEDIATELY.

We are not expecting excuses, we need HARD FACTS, we need NAMES of who has been reimbursed, and who hasn't, and we need them NOW.

We hope this is clear. Once more, you have shown us this is the only language you can understand. If you, or anybody else in the board (copied in this email) prefer to ignore this email, Babels will take immediate action.

We have signed statements by Elin Brusewitz, member of the Board, that reimbursements would be completed by October 1st. This, and several other proofs, will serve us to file proceedings for breach of contract.

In the absence of immediate and clear proofs of goodwill, we will be seeking redress by any possible means.

Babels coordinators for Malmö 2008

October 17. To: Babels ESF


Lina Filopoulou stayed for free at my former apartment for nearly a month. No costs what so ever.

I went from work 22,00 and met Lina and Sophie to by travels and we finished about 01,00 and I took the bus and where at my apartment by 02,30 and had a few hours of sleep before I had to attend a meeting in the morning and then went to work again.

Two times a had to take a cab when I finished work to be able to meet Lina at Inka Tours a travel agency and by flight tickets. Those cab rides I payed myself -in solidarity.

Belive it or not I wasn't responsible for the problems that we had with our account during the forum I tried to solve the problems that accured and you where not my only responibility. You will never know what I went through and I don't think you care either. I have payed you about 4000SEK of my own money to you money that I will never ever get back.

The last month I have not slept nor eaten enough and been under a constant preasure and have had a stressful life. Because of a pain in my heart region for the last two weeks I went to a doctor who made it clear that I risk my health by not taking care of myself in a proper way and that the decision is on me if I am able to continue or not.

When I write to you that I'm not able to do anything else than to try to do all the transfering is that not of ignorance but reality.
If you have any objections on that I think that you should adress the board of NOK.

Your favorite hate objekt and the ignorante.
Anders Palmqvist

October 19. To: Anders Palmqvist

Dear Anders,

We are truly sorry to hear of your health problems. We would also like to thank you for your efforts before and during the ESF to help Babels do its work.

We believe misunderstandings and mistrust are often due to a lack of proper communication. Had we been informed that there were going to be problems regarding accommodation, reimbursement and so on, as soon as you could foresee them, we would have planned accordingly, and we would not have had any need to resort to ultimatums, threats, and angry letters.

The problem is when someone tells you 'We will do this', and then we find out it has not been done. It is good to warn us, as Elin has done, that 'We have not finished the reimbursement, but we're doing it everyday'. But it is much better to devise a simple system by which we do not have to harass you with questions, because we can see that you have processed 40 reimbursements on Monday, 32 on Tuesday, etc.

When Babels started confirming travel with interpreters, Babels created a system by which Francisco and you could follow the confirmation process *in real time*, so that you could verify, *at all times*, what had been done, how much it cost, etc. This way, you didn't have to ask us anything: the information was available to you, in all transparency.

This is all we ask. That we can check whether Mr. Smith has been reimbursed, and when.

You can complain about the angry letter we have sent to you, but please understand that we, members of Babels, receive angry letters from dozens of interpreters who ask for information which we *do not have*... we meet interpreters everyday in our workplace, and we cannot even tell them what is going on. Imagine facing all these people face to face, everyday! It is extremely unpleasant and very very stressful.

All that we ask you is that you take the time to send us emails with names of people you have reimbursed, and to send an email every time you have processed new reimbursements. We do *not* want to harass you. Believe it or not, we are trying to help. But we need you to cooperate.

In the hope that all this nightmare will soon be over, and that you will be able to rest and to get better,

Babels coordinators for the Malmö ESF

October 20. To: Anders Palmqvist


First of all, I don't see why you mention my name in your reply to us. Didn't we ask you just to sent us an update on who had been reimbursed? I find everything else totally irrelevant. But if you want to play this game, fine with me: It was for exactly two weeks, from the 12th till the 25th August. You had already moved out by the time I arrived and I spent two weeks in your empty appartment, in the same conditions some interpreters had to live during their stay in Malmo (mattress on the floor, nothing I could use in the kitchen, only Sophie brought me some things from her place, no lights, I had to use candles!!!).
Everyone knew (Francisco, probably the NOC) that I would arrive on that day in August, it was agreed three months before, from our meeting in May. We told that all coordinators arriving earlier to help would need a place to stay. It was the NOC's responsibility. Even though, Sophie asked you if you wanted money from Babels' budget for the time I would 'subrent' your appartment. You refused when we asked you to make a contract, because you thought it seemed not so good to take money from the ESF as a treasurer.
I never complained about the conditions there, nor did I want to stay at Sophie's, and become a burden on her, but I have to admit that I was totally happy when I moved to the other appartment, given to us for free from a church and where I actually stayed with other babelistas till the end of the forum, and that was for a month.
Anyway, thanks for everything you did for me, although I make different associations when it comes to 'hospitality' and 'solidarity accommodation'.
I don't like the fact that you make us feel sorry for you or that you victimise . Did someone force you to take this responsibility? Or did you overestimate your strengh when committed to organize the 5th ESF?

This is what I would like you to answer and not that you had to pay for taxis to come to the travel agency and buy tickets for babels. I came a long way from Greece to help organizing this Forum. Did I ever hear any thank you from you or Francisco during or after the ESF? Anyway, you were making the decisions, according to your availability, when to meet me and buy the tickets. Because you couldn't do it alone.
Do you remember that you had problems with your visa?!?!!? And we thought that you were buying tickets but it wasn't working!?!??!!? And that's when I asked you and Francisco to find a travel agency to go and do the job properly, because we were all losing our time!?!?!?!?

I think you had no idea at all, and of course not only you, what it means to organize a forum. Did anyone ask us how many ours WE slept during the last 10 days of the ESF? Did any one from the NOC cared how many problems we had to deal with, problems that you and Francisco created?
We knew exactly, I knew exactly, what it means to organize a forum, and despite this fact, I was willing to do this again because I believe in it. And that's why I came to Malmo.

I'm sorry that you hadn't chosen the right people to organize the 5th ESF, but, still, noone takes the responsibility for the total mess there. If you did spend 400SEK from your pocket for us - did anyone know about that? I didn't - I propose that you ask the NOC to give you your money back. I'm sure there is enough money left from our budget. We also paid money from our pockets,
but did we make it a big issue?!

I'm sorry to hear about your heart problems, but you were committed to do something and you obviously cannot. So, please, let someone else finish the work. And it's your fault about this situation, because we had warned you from the very beginning, how difficult it is to reimburse so many people after the forum. You didn't believe us, you didn't pay attention to that. You chose the hard way. Personally, I don't care if you are under pressure now or if you have a stressful life. I don't care about your lifestory. We only asked you an update on the people already reimbursed. We are still waiting.

Maybe I'm still very angry with you(and the NOC) for letting the situation come to this point and I don't mean only the reimbursement. I am still very dissapointed and sad.

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