On Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019 Senator Patty Murray convened a round table discussion at the Seattle Housing Authority in support of her Digital Equity Act of 2019. At the table was the SHA resident-led initiative Building Our Bridge, funded by the City of Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund, which brings multilingual technology instruction to SHA’s Rainier Vista community.
Developed by SHA residents for SHA residents, this digital inclusion program uniquely understands the challenges poverty, disability and disenfranchisement bring. Laughter rang out in SHA’s Rainier Vista classroom on July 5th, 2019 as six Vietnamese elders and one grandchild gathered to learn technology in their own language. An 84 year old student says she didn’t get an opportunity to go to school and now she goes everywhere she can. She overheard someone talking about the Building Our Bridge classes and she asked them, “Please, take me where you are going.” With JAWS and NVDA assistive technology installed on our machines we were proud to welcome Joseph and Hoa Dinh to our Vietnamese program.
Joseph has a degree in computer science and both he and Hoa are blind and are active on the Resident Planning Committee which includes the hiring of staff. Bilingual Instructor Xuan-Nhi Cao is a Primary Teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary who went door to door to Vietnamese households in Rainier Vista to promote the classes, and bilingual Assistant Thu Van Tran is an SHA Temporary Assistant Property Manager Trainer for HOPE VI who knows the community’s needs well and is acquainted with several of the students.
The Oromo program was taught by bilingual Instructor Mohamed Mohamed and bilingual Assistant Fekadu Tuli. Mohamed Mohamed is the Assistant Systems Admin / IT Technician at Refugee Women’s Alliance and Fekadu Tuli is an educator with the Seattle Public Schools who is spending his summer volunteering with the Horn of Africa. During the Oromo program students were excited to create resumes and access The Source, a Seattle Public Schools portal through which parents can monitor their children’s academic progress on-line.
English program Instructor Anjana Ravi is a computer literacy instructor at the community college level who hosted the program in June using our curriculum donated by the Seattle Public Library, which includes moussing, keyboard, email, internet, MS Word & resume, social media, parent engagement and The Source.
On Friday, August 16th, 2019 Building Our Bridge hosted a tri-lingual Tech Clinic in which volunteers from Full Life Care came to the site to help residents troubleshoot issues with their devices. In two hours participants were able to change their computers to write in their native language; install LibreOffice as a free alternative to MS Word; increase the font size on a tablet; address a malfunctioning CD drive; and learn from their peers where to buy low-cost refurbished computers. We’re delighted to welcome program assistant Sakina Hussain, herself a Rainier Vista resident who has worked with SHA Community Builder, Jennifer Calleja on numerous projects in the neighborhood. She has a background in journalism and has worked for MSNBC, MSN and Microsoft. We’re excited to have been recommended for funding by the City of Seattle Technology Matching Fund in 2019-20 and to include a Somali program next summer. We’re reaching out to East African and Southeast Asian organizations to build a network of local technology resources for our students which we will translate into their languages and share with community partners.
Individuals and organizations interested in partnering with us to achieve our goal of hosting multilingual computer classes year round at a permanent computer lab, please contact Elizabeth Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 495-3974 for more information.