It takes a village to raise a child: Dealing with digital poverty

By TARA MCGUIGAN

“PLEASE help me!”, Ruqia pleaded, having told me her three sons, all of them in high school, had no computer at home on which to do their studies.

“No computer … three kids in high school with no computer?” For a moment I found it hard to get my head around how a student at school could manage without access to a computer. A computer is now a basic tool for education, something like a pen and book were last century.

“How do they manage, especially with schools in lockdown during Covid and the only learning being online?” I asked Ruqia.

Her beautiful dark, soft eyes held all the sadness in the world as she told me how her children managed with extreme difficulty accessing their learning using a mobile phone.

Imagine fleeing your homeland, leaving most of what you own behind to find safety in a foreign land where everything from basic food and culture to language to education is alien and confusing.

Imagine how hard it is as a parent to know your child’s struggle is compounded because they have no access to the basic tools for their studies.

My heart was wrenched as I clarified Ruqia’s story with Narayan, a case worker from the Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC) in Parramatta. Narayan told me that Ruqia’s family is one of many suffering this plight.

As a Salvation Army officer, I knew immediately what my next project would be — sourcing computers for migrant families who had recently settled in Australia on refugee visas.

Narayan and I agreed we would start by identifying 20 families with adolescents or primary school aged children that could receive computers.

Then, in collaboration with The Salvation Army’s information technology department, we contacted Dell Technologies who, with no hesitation, said ‘Yes!’.

They were thrilled to be a part of the project and would supply 20 brand new laptops loaded with all the basic software students would need for their schooling, plus laptop sleeves. Dell also offered one years’ support to the recipients.

I’m reminded of the African proverb: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ The Salvation Army, Community Migrant Resource Centre and Dell Technologies are working hand-in-hand to provide hope and a future for some of the most marginalised people in the world through gifts they could only have dreamt of before.

Representatives from all three organisations were present on Friday, March 4 at a lunch event in Parramatta, to hand over the computers to the recipient families. The lunch itself comprised food from the recipients’ countries of origin.

My heart was moved that day Ruqia asked for help. Her eyes are engraved in my soul for good. As a community we can reach out to touch lives at their most desperate points and together raise child … after child … after child, family … after family … after family.

Tara McGuigan (Captain) is Relationship Manager CALD Communities, NSW Public Relations, The Salvation Army Australia Territory. www.salvationarmy.org.au

Image: Representatives of The Salvation Army, the Community Migrant Resource Centre and Dell Technologies gather around recipients of computers in the Digital Transformation Project. The three organisations joined hands to launch the project in Western Sydney on March 4.

 

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