- Season for Caring nonprofits trying to fund technology in growing divide.
- Career training, technology training, English among the education needs.
When 15-year-old Bienfait Byishimo and his siblings, 8-year-old Blessing and 13-year-old Gloria, first came to Austin in 2019 from the Congo after growing up in a refugee camp in Burundi, they started to learn English and the customs of American schools.
“When I first moved to America, it was like a miracle,” Bienfait said. “In America, I have a lot of opportunities. There are so many things that I can do in my life. In Africa, we didn’t have much opportunity. Even if you go to school, you don’t know if you’re going to get a job.”
For Blessing, the biggest surprise was that they got to eat lunch at school. “In Africa, there was no lunch, and students could run away from school and nobody could say anything,” he says. “The students here focus so much.”
Gloria, who is in eighth grade, said she sees some older kids who take advantage of those freedoms by getting into trouble, but for her, she’s focused on doing well in school since she hopes to become a doctor one day.
The family was nominated to the Statesman’s Season for Caring program by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, a nonprofit organization that often helps build healthy relationships among the faith communities of Central Texas. Donations made through Season for Caring can help the organization pay for basic supplies and technology for families like the Byishimo family.
When they came to Austin, they had never used computers before and are now gaining proficiency daily, but because their dad lost his job at a parking garage earlier this year because of the pandemic, they are struggling to pay their internet bill.
Needing access to technology is common with a lot of the families iACT serves, said Simone Talma Flowers, the organization’s executive director. Not only do clients need computers, tablets and Wi-Fi hot spots, they also need someone to teach them how to use those the technology, Flowers said.
“The tech support is something we see ourselves spending more money on,” she said.
Many of the Season for Caring families listed help with internet or the need for laptops or iPads as one of their biggest needs as well as career training and other educational expenses.
The Byishimo family has asked for laptops for the children and father Albert, as well as career training for Albert, an iPad for mother Esther to improve her English and training as a certified nursing assistant. Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, interfaithtexas.org.
The Niyongabo family, who is also from Burundi, is eager to improve their English and wants help with fees for classes as well as career training for father Deogratias and certified nursing assistant training for mother Françoise. They would like to take computer literacy classes as well as receive a laptop. Foundation Communities, 512-447-2026, foundcom.org.
Nelly Aguilar, whose husband was deported in March, is struggling to pay her internet bill. Her four children could use laptops for school. She also wants help with an education after high school for 17-year-old Cecilia. SAFE Alliance, 512 665-1858, safeaustin.org.
Teacher Jessica Molina, who lost her husband to cancer in August, uses her own money to provide supplies for her classroom and would like gift cards for supplies. She also would like help for daughter Julie’s tuition next year for college and a laptop for son Jordan, 12. Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org.
Nelson Toala‘s granddaughters Isabela, 8, and Alexssandra, 10, have to borrow computer access and internet service to do their virtual schoolwork. Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 512-476-6325, mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org.
Cline and Velma Meredith‘s grandsons Anthony, 17, and Aiden, 14, need laptops for school. The Merediths also would like to set aside money for college for the boys. Wonders and Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org.
Renee Milam is trying to earn her GED diploma as well as make sure her kids have access to their school. She needs a laptop for herself and 10-year-old Kaidon, and an iPad for 4-year-old Emory’s special education preschool, as well as internet service. Any Baby Can, 512-454-3743, anybabycan.org.
LaChantia Anderson has been taking coding classes as well as teaching herself coding to try to not be homeless again. She recently sold her laptop to pay bills after she lost her job because of the pandemic. She would like a new laptop for herself and her two daughters as well as tuition at Austin Community College to get a computer programming degree. Salvation Army Austin, 512-933-0600, salvationarmyaustin.org.
Statesman Season for Caring
Read more stories and make a donation at statesman.com/seasonforcaring, or find a donation coupon on Page D8.
Now through Christmas Day, the Sheth Family is matching your monetary donation up to $250,000.
Website of source