SFU tech drive connects DIVERSEcity’s youth program participants with laptops

DIVERSEcity and SFU work together to give newcomer youth access to technology for inspiring virtual programming

With so many services going virtual since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to computers and WIFI is a given for many Canadians. But not for everyone. For vulnerable populations, including some newcomer youth DIVERSEcity serves through its Youth Programs, computers and reliable internet aren’t guaranteed.

“Most of our youth clients do not have access to computers or laptops, and have been joining virtual sessions with their mobile phones,” says Raphael Ochil, coordinator with DIVERSEcity’s Youth Programs. “This limits their ability to engage and participate effectively, as they can’t fully use certain functions, especially on Zoom. It was an even bigger challenge during our post-secondary and CommuniCreate workshops delivered in partnership with SFU-TD Community Engagement Centre. We’re so grateful that SFU decided to step in and help by leading a donation drive for used laptops.”

Since its launch after COVID, SFU’s tech drive has benefited youth and children in need identified through various partners, including 15 laptops to DIVERSEcity’s Youth Program clients, with another 10 to be given out in October. The laptops were refurbished by Annex Consulting Group, led by an SFU alumnus Stacey Cerniuk, and the computers were delivered by volunteers to the doorsteps of our clients.

“As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything started to move online, we quickly realized that many of the newcomer youth and children that we work with do not have their own laptops for access to the necessary technology to participate,” says Gretchen Ferguson, associate director, Partnerships and Programs, SFU-TD Community Engagement Centre. “We also knew that libraries and other places where people might normally access computers were closed down. We were very pleased to be able to initiate a tech drive for donations of laptops and to be able to support access to important community programs like DIVERSEcity’s Youth Programs.”

DIVERSEcity’s youth program participants express their gratitude

Two youth recipients shared how the donations impacted them.

“I am so excited for the laptop donation because I can now join online workshops, practise my computer skills and access educational resources online thanks to DIVERSEcity’s Youth Programs and SFU,” says Esther Kelekele, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and came to Canada as a refugee in 2018. “I faced some challenges when I arrived in Canada including learning English and other subjects in order to get my high school credentials to enable me get into college. I also had difficulty making new friends but that changed after joining DIVERSEcity’s youth programs. In the future I hope to be become a social worker to also help others.”

Rosa Obeydi, who came to Canada from Afghanistan as a refugee, also faced challenges after arriving. “I had to adjust to a new system altogether, [and learn how to] access health services and housing and get a job. DIVERSEcity’s youth program has been so helpful as it has helped me overcome some of these challenges and gotten me more connected to my community,” she says .

“But I struggled to effectively participate in online workshops and training because I didn’t have a computer so I usually used my phone. I can now join online workshops with ease, join online classes and easily do my class assignment. I hope to finish my high school soon, get into college and get a better job.”

DIVERSEcity’s Raphael Ochil adds: “The laptops are for keeps and are also meant to help them with their school work as well.”


Photo above: Raphael Ochil, coordinator, Youth Programs at DIVERSEcity.