The encounter of encounters

Interpreting at an international restorative justice meeting at the Catholic University of Milan


I met Claudia in 2020, referred by another of my favorite clients, Emanuela Biffi. After that, we worked on a translation project together and at the Encounter of Encounters in 2021 (which took place online through a remote interpreting on Zoom and with the involvement of five other interpreters) and in 2022. 

Claudia contacted me in July 2022, two and a half months before the Encounter of Encounters. She gave me the event's provisional schedule and all the information I needed to be able to create a complete, exact estimate (knowing that we would need several interpreters):

  • Dates: September 28-29-30 and October 1 (3 full days of 8 hours and 1 half day of 4 hours)
  • Type of interpreting: simultaneous 
  • Languages: from English to Italian and vice versa, from Spanish to Italian and vice versa, from English to Spanish and vice versa
  • Site: Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan
  • Participants: 50-60 during confidential restorative justice dialogues and an audience of 200-300 people during public meetings
  • Special considerations: Confidentiality about the content of non-public meetings; group and dialogue dynamics (no speeches)

I contacted some trusted colleagues - who immediately gave me their availability to work with me and sent Claudia the quote which included this information:

  • Service requested: Social interpreting
  • Type of interpreting: simultaneous with 2 soundproof booths installed
  • Number of interpreters: 4 (2 fewer than the 6 used during the 2021 online event)
  • Total cost for 4 days (clarifying that travel, board, and lodging expenses would be at her expense)

Claudia immediately inquired about installing the booths but we came up against an obstacle. The available space was inadequate and the event would not always take place in one room. It would be impossible to assemble-disassemble-reassemble the booths every day. We wanted to avoid remote interpreting because for Claudia, for the Witnesses and for us, being there in a person would help us truly feel part of the Group of the Encounter.

A few days later, Claudia wrote that she had found a solution and accepted the quote. My colleagues and I would provide remote interpreting – in Milan – from the Verso hub, where we would have technical support if there were audio or video problems.

If you are envisioning organizing an event like Claudia's, write to me, and let's work together.


Before our confidential and public meetings, Claudia gave us a list of participants and, importantly, Witnesses. 

My colleagues and I studied their stories closely (What had they committed or suffered? What had spurred them to start on the path of restorative justice?). We listened to interviews, familiarized ourselves with their accents and how they spoke, and learned that one Witness wanted to be called a “victor” rather than a “victim.” We immediately realized that the themes and accounts would make a powerful emotional impact, and we would be listening to difficult, painful words and need to translate them with great sensitivity and care

Claudia had round-trip train tickets bought for us interpreters. The day before the event, after days of thorough preparation, we headed to Milan. 

On the first day, my colleagues and I got to the Hub an hour before the start time. We took up our positions in pairs in our booths and made all necessary technical tests: The audio that came through our headsets was clear, our microphones worked, the participants in the space listened to us through headphones and the video connection was excellent. We could see the speaker on the screen from our booth and the participants who were connected remotely saw everything that happened in the space. 

The event started and everyone could take part, expressing themselves in their language of choice between Italian, English, and Spanish. When a participant spoke in English, for instance, my colleagues in the Italian-English booth took turns translating into Italian and, based on their Italian translation, my colleague and I translated into Spanish, alternating every 20–30 minutes. This system is called relais which lets us provide the service with 4 interpreters rather than six, reducing the service's cost for Claudia. 

Over the next days, we always got to the Hub 30 minutes before each event's start time to prepare our work area in the booth (the day's schedule always in clear sight, and the computer on for terminological research as needed).

We would break around 1:00 pm. We interpreters would go to lunch and then return to our booths from 3:30 to 7:30 pm when we would meet up with Claudia and the rest of the group to enjoy a meal together. This let us meet the Witnesses individually and learn more about their stories, which let us empathize with them and identify with their words with greater ease while interpreting. 

Claudia is an ideal client. On the last day, while we were working in the booth, she had the foresight to send us a photo ahead of time with several sentences – taken from a book that would be read at the end of the event – that could have been a challenge for us. This gave us enough time to read them and be able to express the concept as clearly and faithfully as possible.


Claudia and the Encounter Group were very happy with our work.

It was so gratifying to see the participants be able to be moved in the same way and have the same experience of the world. My colleagues and I felt like we had helped create a 'wireless phone' of emotions that worked beautifully.

Agnese Moro, a Witness, told the Osservatore Romano newspaper:

“We saw people who fought bitterly for decades speak honestly and respectfully to each other. We heard them ask questions, envision paths forward, express hopes, give thanks, and make suggestions. We could do all this thanks to a group of interpreters, who were an integral part of the Encounter of Encounters and managed the three languages used (Spanish, Italian, English) to bring us closer to each other. ...We took in their sufferings, journeys, hopes. We touched...the essence of humanity. We went on a journey all together; some, like me, had already been on it for a while and others took this as a chance to start.”

"In the realm of research projects, we drew on Ms. Cavalli’s services as a translator of written texts and audiovisual material of technical and legal content, as well as an interpreter for complex, sensitive talks between participants in restorative justice processes. We were very pleased with her excellent translation service and excellent interpreting. We are sure to turn again to this well-trained, skilled, reliable, and sensitive professional."

Claudia Mazzucato - Associate Professor of Criminal Law, Catholic University of the Sacro Cuore

Claudia is an associate professor of criminal law at the Catholic University of Milan and is a restorative justice mediator. This form of justice aims to involve victims, perpetrators of crime, and communities in a restorative process that seeks to heal the wounds caused by violence, reconciling the parties and strengthening the sense of collective safety.

I chose to work on Claudia's project because it resonated with my values of trust, respect, and open communication. Faith in humanity. Respect for others and, in this case, their suffering. Sharing stories and experiences of redemption and, sometimes, forgiveness that can inspire everyone to turn suffering into a true resource for their lives.

We worked together to support the Milan section of the Encounter of Encounters, a meeting of people of different nationalities (from Belgium, Germany, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Scotland, Israel and Palestine, Italy and the Basque Country), called Witnesses who perpetrated or suffered armed conflict and have been involved in restorative dialogue in their respective countries. 


My social interpreting service can make it so that different languages and cultures can communicate and create relationships. 

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    I'm Laura Cavalli and I interpret and translate Italian, English, and Spanish for people who want to reach across languages and cultures to share knowledge, stories, and experiences, expanding their horizons.

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