Sudanese go tech savvy By Cheryl Lecesse
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Sep 29, 2006 - 6:29:00 AM
Sudanese go tech savvy
By Cheryl Lecesse/ Staff Writer
Thursday, September 28, 2006 - Updated: 09:01 AM EST
Poke your head in the Donaldson Room at Town Offices on a Saturday afternoon, and youíll find a small group of Sudanese working together to better their knowledge of technology.
This group of six is the Sudanese Education Fundís Technology Team - trained not only to use their education to earn certifications and find good jobs in the technology field, but also to provide technical support for their fellow Sudanese throughout Greater Boston. They meet every other Saturday, advised by Ron Moulton, for training.
"We talk about how we can better serve the community," said John Manyiel, technology support coordinator.
"This technology team is very important to us, not only to us inside here, but to the community in which we serve," said team member Daniel Chol.
"Weíre taking advantage of it very seriously," said team member Mike Tip. "Itís a new thing. We want to get used to it and we want to know it really quick."
The team was first formed earlier this year from an application process, and its efforts are already being rewarded - a private donor has awarded the Sudanese Education Fund a grant that will finance the Technology Program through 2007, including funding the purchase of a number of laptop and desktop computers for area Sudanese who do not have one.
"A lot of computers have been deployed to the community already," said Tip.
Manviel said the program is working to close the "digital divide" that many Sudanese feel, and brings with it a cost savings: instead of just using the training to get jobs of their own, the team members are passing it on to others and spreading the wealth.
On Saturday the group huddled around the wooden table, absorbing a presentation on A+ in a setting that will allow them to use what they learn to take a certification exam, enabling them to get technical jobs.
"Itís opened up to the business world," said Worcester-area team member James Chap.
Chap said the program allows Sudanese to be part of the mainstream, and gives them a vehicle to make their voices heard.
Starting this fall, the group will also use its training to hold a number of community-based training sessions for the Sudanese community in the Boston, Worcester and Lynn areas on 10 basic topics directed toward helping them become better technology users.
Team member Dan William said training and tech support are important because computers have become such a large part of business, education and social cultures.
"Technology is one way you can communicate," said William, and the training also serves the broader purpose of helping Sudanese in the Boston area communicate with their families in Africa. "If you donít know the basics, it will be more difficult."
Chap said, because of terrorist warnings and problems with a stabilized post office in Africa, mail sometimes takes three weeks to get to family members.
"E-mailing is the easiest way," he said.
Chol said as Sudanese refugees, he and the greater community came to the Western world already behind in terms of their knowledge of technology.
"Weíre trying to catch up," he said as he explained the benefits of the team-based program. "We need to absorb it and give it to other people."
Abraham Thon, a team member from the Lynn area, said as many Sudanese head to college, they find that having a computer is essential.
The team also showed its gratitude for the anonymous private donor.
"This person has opened our eyes," said William.
"Our hope is to let people know that we are doing this program not only for ourselves but for the people in the Boston area and in Sudan," Thon said.
And Chol said he hopes the program continues to expand to provide more help, training and support to Sudanese not only in Massachusetts, but also in south Sudan.
"One day we might end up going back to Africa," he said.
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