In the midst of a seemingly endless civil war, which ultimately lasted 36 years, many Guatemalans made the heart wrenching decision to leave the only land they’d ever known and seek out a better life in the United States. While the journey was dangerous and uncertain, it seemed better than the alternative: remaining a war-torn nation “marked by abductions and violence, including mutilations and public dumping of bodies,” where “the vast majority, 93 percent, of human rights violations perpetrated during the conflict were carried out by state forces and military groups.” According to Heifer International, “The Guatemalan Civil War claimed 200,000 lives and chased 1.5 million people from their homes.”
Incidentally, in the 1980s, a small number of Guatemalans began immigrating to New York and settling down in Mt. Kisco, a town some 40 miles north of the city. With continued violence, lack of economic opportunities, and social injustice in Guatemala, emigrants increasingly set forth to this town.
Today, over 1 in 4 residents in Mt. Kisco are Latino immigrants, some of whom had very limited access to education and are illiterate. Ironically, others were teachers in their homeland.
In 2000, a community center called Neighbors Link was established “To strengthen the whole community by actively enhancing the healthy integration of immigrants” through education, empowerment, and employment. Amongst the many programs offered at this center, there are “Skills Development” courses, one of which combats the digital divide that we’ve recently addressed. Regardless of prior knowledge–or lack thereof–students receive “personalized instruction in basic computer skills” while their children are looked after in the next room over.
I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering and interning at Neighbors Link, so I’ve seen first-hand the impact of these development classes. I think it’s important to remember that, while we talk about ICT4D in the context of developing nations, there is also a tremendous digital divide within “developed” nations that should not be overlooked!