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Summer camp almost side-lined by COVID-19 needs computers to help refugee kids remotely learn English

Last Updated Jun 8, 2020 at 7:30 am PDT

(Courtesy: students.ubc.ca)
Summary

A summer-time day camp almost sidelined by COVID-19 is rounding up old laptops, iPads

About 60 immigrant children are in need of personal computers so they can learn English from home

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Dozens of immigrant children hoping to attend a BC Newcomer Camp in Vancouver or Surrey will have to take part in programs offered via video-conferencing this summer.

At least 60 laptops or iPads must be collected, so the volunteer-based organization can start running virtual programs the first week of July.

Executive Director Bahar Taheri says the pandemic has forced them to get creative with this pilot project.

“Without the tech, we can’t really deliver our programming. Families usually only have one cell phone that they use for everything, so ideally, if we can have 60 or even more, then we can serve more families. The more computers we have or laptops or iPads, then the more children and families we can serve this summer.”

She says over the past four years, children from refugee families –who are between six and 12-years-old have been physically attending day camps.

“Then, of course, COVID-19 happened and we had to pivot and think about how we can continue the programming and not be in person, so we came up with the idea of an online camp, so it’s going to have a lasting impact on the families beyond this summer because they get to keep the computers.”

Taheri tells NEWS 1130 training for volunteers starts the last week of June with online camps set to run the first week of July until the last week of August.

“Providing a computer or an iPad is not only for the child to join our program. It’s going to be really great for the whole family to access employment opportunities and services from the immigrant-serving organizations delivering services online.”

She adds going virtual means day camps are no longer limited to Vancouver and Surrey.

“Have children joining us from West Vancouver, North Van, all the way out to Abbotsford and maybe even other regions of BC. It will really help us grow for next year. Then, we can hopefully be back in person, but also keep our online program going and reach children in Kelowna, Kamloops, Vancouver Island.”

Anyone willing to sign up for the tech drive can arrange curbside pick-up by a staff member who will visit your home between June 13th and June 16th.

Taheri has only been the executive director of the BC Newcomer Camp since February –right before public safety orders were implemented to prevent the spread of the virus.

She says financial donations are also needed because they’ve had to cancel their annual fundraising gala.

“It’s been very challenging because of the pandemic. Obviously, there’s a lot of organizations that need support. Every year, we focus on getting donations from individuals and businesses. In the past, our funding has predominantly come from our personal networks, reaching out to businesses and in-kind donations, so any amount really helps.”

The camp runs two days per week for each child with sessions alternating between Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday.

Fridays are reserved as professional development days for volunteers and camp leaders who are also immigrant refugees recently graduating from university.

Taheri says camp administrators connect those workers with mentors in the community for possible job opportunities after the camp wraps up and guest speakers are also brought in on Fridays.