I realized I could sit in an armchair and talk about the problem or get involved in the community and help. So, I decided to teach digital literacy classes for Reconciliation Services. Their internet cafe is open Wednesdays and Friday mornings for computer skills training. About 6 months ago I started volunteering on Fridays. My goal is to make sure as many people as possible are taken care of so they can grasp and use technology.
I’m a contract graphic designer and a tech’ fanatic. I work in both the states of Kansas and Missouri but I live a few blocks from RS at 34th and Troost. I believe we have a digital crisis in Kansas City. A lot of people in my community don’t have even basic computer skills. That’s a problem given that government and employers are all using the digital space and paper transactions are becoming obsolete. I can secure a job contract online. People without computers skills are left behind. Within Kansas City’s urban minority neighborhoods, only 20% have a PC and internet connection (2013 US Census).
I would say of all the work I do in design or IT, working with RS clients gives me the greatest sense of purpose and meaning. I love what I do for work, but it’s refreshing to step outside of my own bubble and the minutiae of my own preoccupations. My self absorption can send me into a downward spiral of poisonous thoughts and isolation. When I step outside of myself and into someone else’s life and needs, my focus shifts. I am no longer the object of my gaze or the subject of my woes and worries. My focus becomes about others and not me. It’s life-giving to be open to others and to learn from them and their lives; to make a connection with another human being, to enjoy them regardless of their background, color or creed and for them to enjoy me. There is a mutual exchange when I sit with a client in front of a computer and we have a common goal; barriers come down and technology, in that moment, unites us. We experience a short journey of accomplishment together and hidden abilities are revealed.
On an average Friday morning we get to help 10 - 15 people receive basic computer skills training. We instruct them on how to use the keyboard and mouse, how to set up a password and email account, and how to browse the web or apply for jobs. A lot of people come in to RS asking for help to get an ID, a birth certificate, a drivers license or other government documents. Everyone is required to process their paperwork online using our laptops. For many, using a computer is a brand new experience. For others, it’s like learning to ride a bicycle again after many years! We get to guide them through the process and support them to achieve their goal wherever they’re at. Some of the people we’ve trained are now volunteering and instructing others in the internet cafe.
RS has a vision for the internet cafe to be open 5 days a week. This will increase opportunities for those in our community who do not have access to computers or the internet to learn digital skills and to apply for jobs online. A lot of our clients are finding employment because of our skills training. Plans are also underway to add advanced digital skills training. I’m excited to be part of the RS team and that many others are seeing the value of being involved whether it’s donating computers, teaching classes or getting the urgency of our message out!