We planned. We fundraised. We built. We navigated COVID-19 safety protocols and changing asylum policies. In the face of adversity, we persevered. And now, we are so excited to announce that with the help of donors and volunteers our digital literacy classes are underway!
After setting up a brand new computer lab in the Pro Amore Dei migrant shelter in Tijuana last month, our labs are finally being put to use. We are now one week into training our first cohort of asylum seekers. Our five-week course features bi-lingual instruction on basic computer skills, how to navigate Zoom and Google classroom, and how to use online programs such as typing.com and usalearns.org. It also includes lessons on conducting basic research and using the internet safely.
Each class consists of a warm-up, followed by relevant content exercises on subjects such as typing, using search engines, and English functions. They include team and partner work, homework assignments, and an end-of class reflection. When not in class, our students have full access to the computer lab, so they can practice their typing and complete homework assignments on their own time. Like our students, our instructors are working hard, continuously demonstrating enthusiasm, patience and support as they tailor each lesson to reflect the diverse needs of our learners.
Who are our students?
Our current students come from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They range in age from 17 to 51 years old. Most have been residing in Pro Amore Dei shelter for more than six months; one participant has been there for almost a year and a half. Of this cohort, 55% of our students have never used a computer before and 44% have never used the internet.
Why are computers so important?
Not only are computer skills essential for finding jobs and connecting to social services like food and health benefits once our asylum seekers reach the United States. These days, the only way to even begin the asylum seeking process is online. Without knowing how to use a computer or navigate the internet, the process of filing asylum paperwork is nearly impossible. That’s why we are acting fast to try to close the knowledge gap (and working to build out existing partnerships with Formally.
Once our students complete the 5-week computer intensive course, they will be ready to tackle online ESL classes. These classes will expand on the basic computer skills they will have learned and gradually introduce more complex English topics relevant to their experiences as asylum seekers. Our goal is to help our students successfully navigate finding work and social services once arriving in the U.S. as well as creating and maintaining meaningful social connections and community networks online.