Sunday, September 7, 2014

Computers in Homes Cultural Celebration

Bringing technology, internet access and basic computer literacy to all New Zealanders is the core objective of the 2020 Communications Trust. . Yet their Computers in Homes programme has gone much further by creating vital connections and opportunities within diverse communities throughout the country.  
Computers in Homes (CIH), the flagship programme of the 2020 Communications Trust, has helped connect more than 12,000 families since its establishment in 2000.
Cultural Celebration.HC.Computers In Homes
To achieve this, CIH works within communities where access to technology and internet connection isaffected by low income and/or rural locality.  Meeting specific needs of   families from low decile schools ensures that those without home access to computers or the internet are able to receive training, a refurbished computer, a subsidised internet connection and tech support for 12 months. The goal is simple: digital inclusion and digital literacy for all, with parents connecting to their children’s learning.
CIH National Coordinator Di Daniels says a big part of the programme’s success has been in building a culturally diverse team that can easily relate to the individuals and communities they work with. The CIH team includes five full-time staff and twenty part-time regional coordinators.
“At Computers in Homeswe celebrate the cultural diversity of the New Zealand communities within which we work by reflecting that diversity in our workforce. Over 50% of our employees identify as Maori or Pasifika and have been chosen from within the communities they serve in their regions. Those who do not exactly ‘match’ the broader demographics of their region have experience and training in working with diverse cultural groups. Other tau iwi represented in our national office staff include Indian and Chinese so our quarterly hui are a reflection of New Zealand society at large.”
Survey data presented in the latest annual report shows that 53% of families graduating from the CIH programme were Maori, 13% Pasifika, 28% Pakeha and 6% Tau Iwi.
Another factor driving the success of CIH is that the organisation invests time in building a strong relationship with the family allowing them to be ‘invited in’ to share in technology and skills. In this way, the programme enjoys the full support and engagement of wider family and community groups. As Daniels explains, “We have only gone into communities where and when we have been invited.”
“We work through low decile schools, marae, community hubs and Pasifika churches in the most disconnected areas of the country. By being invited in we can validate small, rural Maori communities that might otherwise be passed by, or cultural city groups who have not had the chance to receive digital education. We also serve newly arrived refugee communities in five main centres to assist in resettlement education for severely displaced children and their families,” she says.
The support model that underpins the CIH programme places importance on whanau support and engagement and a teina-tuakana approach.
“If some parents come into the training with higher ICT skills then they help those who are just beginning their digital journey. This teina-tuakana approach promotes cooperative learning rather than a competitive model and everyone graduates together. This is highly valued by participants who tell us in their feedback that they have forged new friendships and support networks with people they previously only said hello to at the school gate. School principals and staff report that this social cohesion flows out into the community by way of increased engagement between home and school.”
This supportive philosophy fosters individual growth and development, and extends to the CIH workforce.
As Daniels explains, “The same principles apply to our coordination team at our quarterly hui where our expertise and knowledge is shared amongst our peers.”
In fact, many of the CIH team were originally participants in the programme as parents, tutors or technicians before choosing to give back to their communities through this work.
“Most of our team have been with us since the regions were first established in 2007 and report huge job satisfaction, despite the long working hours and the demands of working with clients.”
Despite the individual nature of the work and the vast area the different team members cover – 20 regions spanning the country from the Far North District to Southland, Daniels says the team culture is maintained via regular email, telephone and Skype contact, as well as regional visits.
“They are the type of people who roll up their sleeves and get on with the job of delivering excellence while fully engaged, and going over and above the call of duty in the community.”
Above all, “Computers in Homes is not about the computer – it is all about relationships and how these relationships enhance aspirations and achievements. Our coordinators have a complex yet enriching role in closely interacting with others in their diverse home communities. It is not about people coming in through our doors to work or study inside our culture – it is about taking the mahi out to the culture of the people, the culture of the communities via the culture of our coordinators.”

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