Sight translator with patient - Valley Community Interpreters

Valley Community Interpreters (VCI) was founded in 2015 with a commitment to improve and increase language services at all levels of New Mexican society. In 2018, VCI was granted the 501c3 nonprofit designation by the Internal Revenue Service to provide two areas of services:

  1. The VCI Academy training New Mexico’s interpreter workforce to serve the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) communities and their service providers.
  2. VCI Language Service Agency (VCI Agency), a full language service agency providing interpretation, translation, and language proficiency testing.

Brief History

VCI was established in response to the pressing need of Limited English Proficient (LEP) communities to communicate when requesting and receiving community services. VCI’s founder and director Cecilia Portal was working as a telephonic interpreter (OPI) when she noticed that on the one hand, the language service industry needed qualified and trained interpreters, and on the other hand, the unemployment and underemployment in New Mexico were very high in a state with a large multilingual population, a valuable human resource. “Why hasn’t anyone put these two things together,” Cecilia asked. VCI began with this idea in mind of using valuable language skills in the bilingual community members to address the needs of LEP families and their service providers. With the generous support of the Kellogg Foundation, VCI began to identify and train bilingual community members to enter the interpreter profession.

Our Mission

Valley Community Interpreters (VCI) commits to improving language access in health, social service, and educational systems by providing interpreter training, language services and by informing policy to improve the quality of life for New Mexicans with limited English proficiency.

VCI Staff

The organization is led and staffed by immigrant women who are professionals in the fields of interpretation, nonprofit management, and program planning and implementation.

Cecilia Portal Cecilia Portal, CHI is the founder and director of VCI. As a young girl, she was a refugee from Cuba. She grew up in Mexico City where she pursued a nursing career after earning a nursing degree from Mexico’s National Autonomous University. She migrated to the U.S. in 1981. Cecilia is an experienced interpreter; in 2014 she received the national healthcare interpreter certification from the Certification Commission for Interpreters in Healthcare (CCHI) and has been an interpreter licensed trainer since 2015. She has over 30 years of experience in nonprofit management, and program development and implementation.

VCI Board of Directors

The leadership of the VCI Board of Directors is comprised of 80% immigrants and members of the Hispanic Community.


Trish Abbin, VCI Board President—as president and founder of Fat Cat Enterprises Ltd., she has been a part of New Mexico’s economic development for 20+ years.  She has an MBA in International Business and has worked with immigrant communities in a variety of capacities with the goal of improving lives and economies.  Trish is multi-lingual and worked in the medical and finance interpreting field for several years, both as an interpreter and trainer of interpreters.  Trish’s passions have always been business, learning about other cultures, and sharing that knowledge with others.  For those reasons, Trish fully believes in VCI’s mission and vision moving forward.
Julia C. Stephen Julia Stephen, VCI Board Vice- President—Co-Founder of the Rio Grande Community Development Corporation (1986) and Executive Director (2000-2010). Previously, she provided physical therapy, rehabilitation, and resource development consultation throughout rural New Mexico, as well as the Albuquerque and Phoenix metropolitan areas (1967-1984). She often depended on interpreters to ensure clear communication and improved health outcomes of non-English speaking clients. The lack of New Mexico institutions employing interpreters and the importance of quality interpretation requiring formal training, prompted her to encourage Cecilia to follow her vision and develop VCI. Julia is retired from UNM-HSC (1999), has an M.A. in Environmental Planning – ASU (1984) and a B.S. Physical Therapy – KU (1967).
Fabián Armijo Fabián Juan Armijo, VCI Board Member—a native New Mexican, is the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and Interpreter Language Services (ILS) for UNM Hospitals (UNMH). He has worked as a professional staff Spanish Interpreter and Translator at UNMH and is a licensed interpreter trainer. Before working in health care, Fabián lived and worked in Spain where he was employed as a primary school teacher. He has studied at the Universidad de Palermo, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil. Fabián is currently enrolled in the Master’s of Health Administration (MHA) at the University of New Mexico’s School of Public Administration.
Suha Amer, VCI Board Member—a co-founder of United Voices for Newcomer Rights (2015) and currently their Evaluator. Born and raised in Iraq, she completed her early education and bachelor’s degree there. In 2008, war and religious persecution forced her to flee with her three children to the United States. Suha earned a Master’s degree from the University of New Mexico and served as an Arabic interpreter for Albuquerque Public Schools. She has dedicated the last 14 years working with newcomer populations in Albuquerque. Recent efforts include policy advocacy to improve language and cultural access for newcomers in APS and provide newcomers access to interpretation for behavioral and mental health needs. Suha’s passion lies in working with newcomer children and their families, and assisting them in finding or creating the appropriate environment. This passion motivates her to advocate for systemic changes that lead to better opportunities for these families.
Cynthia Roat, VCI Board Member—an international consultant and trainer on language access in health care. Over the past 30 years she has made significant contributions to the field as an interpreter, teacher, consultant, organizer, researcher, mentor, and author. Her most recent book, Healthcare Interpreting in Small Bites, has being adopted as an ancillary text in many interpreter training programs. She has been involved in many of the advances in healthcare interpreting in the United States, and is known nationally as an engaging speaker, a knowledgeable resource, and an energetic advocate for language access in general.
Cameron Crandall, MD, VCI Board Member—a Professor of Emergency Medicine and Associate Vice President for LGBTQ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UNM Health Sciences Center. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, he moved to New Mexico in 1993 to train in emergency medicine after graduating from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Crandall works clinically at UNM Hospital’s emergency department where he works with a diverse population of patients who are acutely ill or injured–over 10% of whom speak a language other than English. As a consumer of medical interpreter services, he understands the critical importance of providing care in their preferred language.