As we well know, learning is foundational to success and a computer is foundational to learning. Simply put, it can be challenging to navigate the modern world without technology.
Since the onset of the pandemic and the imposition of stay-at-home measures, many clients in our language learning and employment readiness programs have had difficulties accessing our programs because they don’t have access to technology conducive for learning — like a desktop computer, laptop or tablet. In fact, a survey of our Toronto LINC students conducted in August, 2020 showed that 45% access language classes using their cell phone. Yet, accessing services off a phone is unwieldy, given the interface is smaller, and the functionality less comprehensive, thereby making it harder to undertake writing assignments, edit documents, work off applications like Word, populate various portals, or access resources.
Community Stakeholders Create Capacity
However, since late 2020, CCS has been working with a number of community stakeholders to address the technology gap, collaborating with the federal government, the United Way of Toronto, Renewed Computer Technology, the City of Toronto and the Catholic Children’s Aid Society to get tools — 100’s of computers and monitors — to our clients.
Federal Government & United Way Support for Computer Lending Program
First, last December, CCS received a grant through the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund. The assistance was designed for charities serving vulnerable communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, either through a drastic increase in demand for services, or the necessity to adapt their delivery model to meet client needs. The United Way of Toronto, acting as intermediary, administered the program and facilitated short term grants to community-based agencies. CCS received $16,823 and bought 19 laptops and tablets in establishing a computer lending library for LINC program clients.
CCS Partners with Renewed Computer Technology
Later that same month, CCS received a donation of 50 refurbished desktop computers (including keyboard, mouse and the Windows 10 operating system) from Renewed Computer Technology (RCT), a GTA social enterprise that provides renewed information and communications’ technology to learners and offers workplace skills & training opportunities for youth.
RCT receives donated computers from the federal government, corporations, not-for-profits, and schools every year. Computers are shipped to the RCT Mississauga warehouse, renewed, and then provided to charities, non-profits, schools, boards and qualifying individuals, students and families for a low cost or free. In over 25 years, RCT has renewed and delivered over 510,000 computers.
CCS’ allocation was split between clients in its LINC programs in Peel Region and Scarborough, and its Employment Access program.
Internet Connectivity Through City of Toronto
Next, in February, CCS received three internet “connectivity kits” through the City of Toronto’s Community Coordination Plan, in which the United Way of Toronto and the City of Toronto work with community agencies to address COVID-related needs. As part of this program, laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and data are made available to vulnerable community members. The agencies identify recipients from their respective client bases and handle distribution.
CCS’ LINC program received three kits along with backpacks and 100 Presto cards.
“These students were dedicated to improving their language skills, learning about life in Canada and maintaining a connection with their community. This plays a vital part in their integration into Canadian society and the initiative helps them to continue their studies,” said Lucy Fitzpatrick a LINC program manager.
Students said having easy access to technology helped their learning experience.
“I can check English vocabulary now,” said Nabeela.
Catholic Charities Connects the Dots
Finally, in April, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto connected CCS to another Catholic Charities’ member agency, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society (CCAS), who graciously provided 25 monitors, helping to fully operationalize many of the desktops received from RCT.
Partnering for the Greater Good
Technology is key to building our clients’ skill-sets and knowledge bases, and we are thankful for the engagement of various levels of government and community partners of all stripes for helping us provide the tools to drive positive outcomes.
Want to help us continue to supply vital technology to vulnerable youth and families? Please consider a donation to CCS.