Teaching Digital Skills in Multiple Languages in Syracuse, N.Y.

with Karimullah Kamwar of the Syracuse Northeast Community Center

Karimullah Kamwar and his family immigrated from Afghanistan to the U.S. in 2021 and quickly recognized challenges navigating the digital world. Embarking on his own digital literacy journey, Kamwar recognized that other refugee families were facing the same challenges.

Kamwar, Digital Empowerment Manager at Syracuse Northeast Community Center in New York, joins Dara Brown at Net Inclusion 2024 to discuss how the program he manages works to empower immigrants and refugees through technology and digital skills training. He states, “We are a team of five people and providing sessions in ten languages. So, we believe if we teach them, the clients, in their native language, they will learn very fast.”

Posted on:

March 29, 2024

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Brown: Millions of Americans are living without access to high-speed broadband internet at home, impacting education and employment opportunities. Hello. I'm Dara Brown. This is "Getting Connected" powered by "Comcast Newsmakers." We're here today at the Net Inclusion 2024 Conference in Philadelphia. And joining me here is Karim Kamwar. He is the Digital Empowerment Manager at the Syracuse Northeast Community Center where they are working to close the digital divide. Karim, thank you for joining me today.

Kamwar: My pleasure. Thank you very much, Dara.

Brown: You have been in the United States a little over 2 1/2 years and you've already made an impact. Can you tell me about your life story?

Kamwar: It was December 2021 and my family and I immigrated from Afghanistan to the U.S. through Allies Operation Welcome Program. So, we settled in Syracuse, New York. At the first days of living in Syracuse, honestly, we faced with numerous challenge with navigating digital world. Simple tasks like making an appointment, shopping online, communication, using public transportation seems daunting compound with the language barriers. So, at the center, you saw the other refugee families, our neighbor also, facing the same challenge. By the way, my family and I embark on a journey of navigating digital world and learning to use all applications. So, that made their life easy in the U.S.

Brown: Can you tell me about the digital empowerment programs you're using?

Kamwar: Okay, when I apply for the position of Digital Empowerment Manager, during the interview, my manager asked me, "How you can start this job?" Including me, we are a team of five people and providing session in 10 languages. So, we believe if you're teaching the clients what -- in their native language, they will learn very fast. And it is the results, hundreds people came to our organizations and we taught them the all digital apps.

Brown: Can you share a success story with us?

Kamwar: Yes. I remember a woman, she was 55 years old. She immigrated from Afghanistan to the U.S. and she had no one in the U.S. And at the first time when she came to our office, she was only crying for help, for asking for assist and help. So, I thought, "How can I help her?" So, then, I thought, "The only things I can help her to teach her digital literacy." I start teaching her the Google Maps to find the locations. After that, the other apps, checking emails and other apps. So, today, she's working in a supermarket. She is able to use public transportations. And, also, she is able to check her accounts, her credit and debits. So, overall, I think it's -- the digital literacy is a beginning of empowerment for the community, especially for the refugee people which is coming to the U.S. and starting a new life.

Brown: Karim, the Syracuse Northeast Community Center was named a trailblazer by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. What does that mean for you?

Kamwar: At first, it's my pleasure that I am the member of this community center and work there. So, overall, my team and me, we are all committed for providing those sessions. Fortunately, the city of Syracuse, which is providing funds for our program, they are also committed for supporting our programs. So, we will continue. We will continue to provide service for the neighbors, for anyone, especially for the refugee communities to our -- that are coming. I think it's a beginning of empowerment among the community, especially for the people which is newly immigrating in the U.S. and you are starting a new life.

Brown: Karim Kamwar, thank you so much for your time.

Kamwar: My pleasure. Thank you.

Brown: And thanks to you as well for watching. For more conversations about digital equity and broadband expansion, visit gettingconnected.com. I'm Dara Brown.

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