Empowering refugee adults and bridging the digital divide
Bridging the digital divide for families at The Hope Center is complete, which was needed more than ever due to the pandemic! Thankfully, God was way out in front of this need, as usual, and provided a generous grant through Legacy Collective, a nationwide giving circle started by author Jen Hatmaker, to provide most of the necessary funding.
Since then, with schools and jobs forced online, many refugee parents found themselves unable to help their children through the pandemic’s subsequent challenges – only magnifying the existing digital divide.
“When the water is low, a lot of rocks appear,” says Eileen Wilson, BHITC’s Director of Refugee and Immigrant Ministries. “When students were shifted to remote learning last spring, refugee parents realized there was a whole other aspect of the U.S. they didn’t know existed – all of the technology! Even the strongest families came to us and said, ‘We don’t know how to help our kids.’ The computer lab is a huge step in removing this type of barrier for parents.”
The new computer lab, which officially opened in early November, is designed for adults in need of basic computer skills to help them take the next steps forward in life for themselves and their family members. First, it opens a world of jobs requiring more technology skills. If refugees spent time living in camps, it is very unlikely they arrive with many computer skills, but so many American jobs rely on technology. Secondly, if they have children, it allows them to better assist their children through remote learning and improve communication with school staff.
The lab – furnished with desks and chairs and equipped with computers, printers and presentation and video-conferencing equipment – thanks to Legacy Collective – accommodates six adult students plus a teacher. Each session of classes will last eight weeks and cover the basic computer skills needed for a job, such as Microsoft Office Suite. Demolition, drywall and painting to reconfigure and update the space was donated by volunteers, Albert M. Higley Company and the local painters union. Flooring will be installed at a later time.
The first students in the new computer lab are the employees from the refugee community who joined The Hope Center’s staff over the spring as part of the organization’s Access Hope Initiative (AHI). The organization seeks to empower these employees to be advocates for their community by investing in their growth. Computer and technology skills will enable them to be strong role models and find better long-term employment.
“We are helping them so they can help others,” says Wilson. “It’s become apparent that extra help is needed, and that’s why we’re making this a priority.”