The following post was co-authored by Celeste Lawson:
The US, nations around the world, including our own home state of New York, are facing an unprecedented health and humanitarian crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting life on just about every level. In recent years, the world has witnessed the havoc wreaked by more and more natural disasters, requiring humanitarian and service organizations such as AmeriCorps to aid the communities devastated by floods, hurricanes, fires, etc.
As the world braces itself for the continuing tragic consequences of the coronavirus, we have all been advised of how critical it is to follow certain guidelines to help deter the spread of the virus. We have also been advised on the importance of staying in touch with family and friends, as well as with jobs, schools, while practicing social distancing at the same time.
While hand washing is easy to accomplish, and social distancing may be inconvenient and emotionally challenging, these elements are relatively easily accomplished through persistence and care. However, staying in touch with others depends upon a heavy reliance on computers, the internet, and access to a range of technology services. For many, this too is easily accomplished, but for some it is a daily struggle.
Mission Ignite, formerly Computers for Children, has a long history of providing low-cost or no-cost computers and technology training and solutions for populations with the least access to technology, and the greatest need for technology. This pandemic, aside from being a significant health crisis, has also created a crisis of communication that includes the inability for some households to stay in touch with family and friends. Another challenge is for students to keep up with their educational requirements while furloughed from school.
The Ignite Your Life STEM AmeriCorps program, established by Mission Ignite, is an important source and resource to help families struggling to communicate with each other. The program also helps establish a school-to-home pipeline where students can maintain contact with teachers and classmates, thus ensuring that homework assignments are received and completed.
The Ignite Your Life STEM AmeriCorps program is an important source and resource to help families struggling to communicate with each other.
Because the virus has basically shut down all brick and mortar educational venues, Mission Ignite is ramping up production, refurbishing and reprogramming donated computers, and making low-cost or no-cost technology available for the student population forced into home-schooling and online instruction – from elementary school to the university level – until they can return to their classrooms. Mission Ignite is also looking to make computer hardware available to home-based workers, and others who have a need for technology in the home, but cannot afford to purchase technology from traditional retailers and outlets.
Mission Ignite AmeriCorps members are helping to provide the region’s underserved youth with technology training and the resources that they need to attain success in school… to be prepared to take advantage of job opportunities in the future. As part of the service experience, a significant and important “educational” component is included. AmeriCorps members that graduate from the program are enriched with the skills that offer direct paths to employment in the technology field. For example, Google lists thousands of open positions within the IT environment – the jobs are there if the education component is made available.
As the organization works hard and fast to get much needed computers into the hands of students who are now required to engage in distance learning, the team is reminded of its founding principles when the agency was launched in 1997. The focus now, as it was then, is “to level the technology playing field and get equipment and training within the grasp of those with the greatest need.” That premise is more critical now than ever, since digital learning is considered essential to complete course work.
The effort to respond to the current need and demand also calls for the continued recruitment of members to join the Ignite Your Life AmeriCorps team. AmeriCorps members are urgently required to assist Mission Ignite. Ultimately, these new members will have a measurable impact, by supporting students and helping them to sustain and maintain a positive academic performance. This writer can attest to the quality and performance of the technology coming out of Mission Ignite because my personal device of choice is a refurbished Dell Computer I purchased from Computers for Children in 2014 – that model continues to outperform the new system I acquired this past year!
If you require a computer for yourself, or someone in your circle of family and friends needs one to complete school assignments, please reach out to Marc Moscato at email@example.com or check out the online store.
Additionally, Mission: Ignite is providing free technology support of all computer users by calling 716-823-7248 ext 600.
There is a light on the end of the tunnel for many in need. If you or someone you know is interested in serving our community, by helping less fortunate people weather the COVID-19 storm, consider joining the technology-based AmeriCorps program. Take a couple minutes to watch the short video of Mission: Ignite’s help in the Western NY Community (see video above).
AmeriCorps is a voluntary civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.” The AmeriCorps mission statement is “to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based direct national and community service.” Members commit to full-time or part-time positions offered by a network of nonprofit community organizations and public agencies, to fulfill assignments in the fields of education, public safety, health care, and environmental protection. The program is often regarded as a domestic Peace Corps. It employs more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year; over 1 million Americans have served since its inception.
Lead image: Sam Hayles – AmeriCorps member