The tech trek
Everyday, immigrants enter this country in hopes of starting over. In most cases, these individuals are lacking the social and basic life skills they need to adapt to their new lives in the United States.
As a result, immigrants around the country are hopelessly seeking support from those who have been in their shoes. While the number of immigrants increases, the number of individuals and organizations willing and able to help them is small in comparison. Organizations such as the Center for Immigrants and Immigration Services (CIIS) in Denver are taking it upon themselves to be that helping hand.
CIIS serves the needs of immigrants from around the world who now call Colorado home, many of whom are survivors of torture and war trauma, those fleeing persecution and victims of human trafficking. The organization, founded in 2009, offers a number of services to ease the transition into this country by providing a wealth of support including legal services, social and community resources, health care services, mental health programs and now, fundamental technology training.
NIMBL, a Denver-based SAP professional services consulting firm, quickly recognized CIIS as an organization we could partner with. We reached out to Director, Frederick Jayweh, a Liberian immigrant himself, with the idea of providing basic technology courses for the participants in his program. Over the course of nearly a year now, NIMBL has administered a variety of training courses surrounding basic technology.
We found that participants in the program were at varying degrees of proficiency when it came to using computers. For some, our initial training course was one of the first experiences they had seeing and using a computer. As a result, we had to start from the beginning. Our first course centered around the very basic and essential parts of a PC such as identifying the power button, monitor, and mouse. Slowly, these sessions have progressed into hands-on training in topics such as Craigslist, Google, Word, and even Facebook.
"Many of the immigrants who come to CIIS don’t know how to turn on a computer, much less how to use technology to its full capacity" Jayweh says. “They want to learn the very basics so they can complete job applications online and better adapt to modern society. Our greatest challenge was finding a person or group who could provide the essential technology training to the people who so desperately want to learn.”
We recognize that for these individuals, a successful transition doesn’t only mean physical and mental survival, but in some cases it also means relevant adaptation to their new environment. In an early conversation with the CIIS team, we were told that although the participants barely had the essentials to survive in terms of food and shelter - nearly all of them made it a priority to secure a cell phone. For us, this made clear the idea that when it comes to integrating into a new culture, sometimes acceptance can bring about, healing, confidence and ultimately success in establishing a new life. Not only is it about learning to speak the same language in terms of speech, sometimes it’s also about learning to speak the same cultural language.
“I want to learn about and better prepare myself for the dangers of the internet,” says Augustin Niamkey a CIIS participant from the Ivory Coast. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can.”
In addition to providing basic technology courses, NIMBL also volunteered to provide CIIS with tools (Sharepoint, Database, etc.) that would allow Jayweh and his team to log and track pertinent information about existing participants as well as new individuals joining the program. This basic IT infrastructure and toolset is fundamental literally to CIIS’ existence. To effectively apply for federal grants – CIIS must provide detailed and accurate statistics regarding their clients as part of the grant process. Since then, other local companies such as Evolution Marketing Group have also volunteered their services by providing a new website free of charge.
These courses might help participants ease into American culture by having the skills necessary to apply for a job, create a resume, search for directions or connect with friends and family, but it is also clear that NIMBL gains as much as it gives. Sharing our time as well as the information we so easily take for granted allows us to remember our roots, get back to basics and appreciate the wonders of technology that allow fortunate people like ourselves to live a better life.
Our partnership with CIIS has been amazing. If you and/or your organization is interested in more information – please email CIIS’ Executive direction (Frederick A.B. Jayweh) at FJayweh@ciisdenver.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.