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blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

The City of Buffalo has been praised for its influx of refugees and the opportunities that those refugees are provided. It’s obvious that the city benefits too, as Buffalo’s abundance of cultures weaves new markets, crafts, religious influences and cuisines into the All-America city. The relationship is symbiotic, and there’s a reason Buffalo attracts the most refugees in New York State.

A slew of local organizations have joined efforts to help a critical section of Buffalo’s refugee population to adapt more quickly to a new environment. The John R. Oishei Foundation, First Niagara Bank, WASH Community Project, the UB Career Center, Computers for Children and the International Institute of Buffalo have collaborated to provide computer access and skills to the burgeoning Burmese population.

With funding from the John R. Oishei Foundation and computers provided by First Niagara Bank, Computers for Children familiarized 20 Burmese refugees with computer basics, email, internet search, NFTA bus schedules, an introduction to the Buffalo Public Schools’ website and links useful in comprehending the English language.

Once these Burmese families complete the training, they’re rewarded by keeping the computer that they trained on.

Though internet access and computer literacy allows the Burmese to track events happening in their native country, the training hinges on painting Buffalo as a land of opportunity rather than one of intimidation and confusion. Computers for Children program coordinator Genna Mitchell—also an occasional Buffalo.com contributor with a passion for the West Side—and a team of interns from the University at Buffalo Career Center manage the hands-on teaching, while the West Side Value Laundromat and the International Institute of Buffalo served as the primary training sites.

“Many of the families we worked with had never placed their hands on a keyboard or a mouse, so it was interesting to observe how a tool that has become such a vital part of our everyday lives had just been introduced to theirs. I’m excited to see the long-term effects of this program,” Mitchell said.

Educating the refugee parents makes the most sense, as they can pass along the knowledge to their children and so on. Buffalo Public School No. 45, the International School, introduces some computer concepts to students, as the local public school system is looking to further embrace technology in assigning and submitting homework.

Assimilating refugees into American culture and facilitating their adjustment to Buffalo is necessary for the Queen City to continue its revival, and we’re grateful for the collaborative efforts of these organizations in training the new breed of Buffalonian.

(Photos courtesy of Computers for Children).

TAGGED: first niagara bank, genna mitchell, international insittute of justice, john r. oishei foundation, wash community project

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