I am in my final year in a Master of Social Work program at Fordham University in New York City. I have always been passionate about social work, but my passion grew significantly as a result of the civil war that I experienced in my native country of Syria. While completing my undergraduate studies at Aleppo University, I volunteered with Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) where I learned about the challenges Iraqi refugees faced after they migrated to Syria. At that time, I never expected that the same problems could happen to me someday.
Every day, as I see media depictions of hate and violence in my country, I see pictures of the streets that used to be filled with joy, laughter and dreams. The same streets of yesterday now are covered with blood and the smell of dead bodies. I don’t see the same beautiful green Syria on Google, I see red Syria. My moving from Syria to the United States was not out of choice, but out of necessity, and I am grateful to be here. I also am honored to be the UN Student Representative for CLOSE THE GAP, a Brussels-based NGO that works primarily in Africa.
As the UN Youth Representative for Close the Gap, I attend weekly UN NGO briefings, committee meetings and conferences and then send reports to keep Close the Gap informed about NGO developments at UN Headquarters. I also report on preparations for the 66th DPI/NGO Conference to be held in Geongju, Republic of Korea. In addition, I use the Close the Gap Social Media account to reach out to their audience with an update of events and I keep in touch with the Brussels office on a monthly basis via Skype. Participating in all these events is a great opportunity to learn and network. I continue to expand my knowledge and gain more confidence in networking with other NGO representatives and learning about their work. Recently I helped connect a St. Teresa of Avila school teacher in Tanzania with Close the Gap to help fill the school’s computer needs. In summation, my experience as a Youth Representative has been incredibly rewarding and will be an important factor in my professional development.
“Close the Gap is an international non-profit organization that aims to bridge the digital divide by offering high-quality, pre-owned computers donated by European companies to educational, medical and social projects in developing and emerging countries. Access to information and communication technology (ICT) is essential in the developing world because it is key to improving a country’s educational and economic prospects. However, the cost of new equipment, limited infrastructure and the lack of IT knowledge and proficiency mean that many people still have no access to IT. Today, information is seen as one of the major drivers of economic and social development and ICT makes access to information available on an unprecedented scale. The digital divide is not only a divide between people who have access to ICT and people who don’t. It’s also a divide between people who have knowledge of ICT and those who don’t, between people who realize the opportunities presented by ICT and those who don’t. It consists of an infrastructure gap, a knowledge gap and a psychological gap. Close the Gap collects decommissioned computers from companies and arranges for other organizations to clean the hard disks and then check and configure the hardware according to the requirements of its end-users. The computers are then shipped to the destination country by sea or air transport. Since 2003, Close the Gap has already received more than 250,000 computers from companies all over Europe. Today, Close the Gap has supported more than 2,500 projects all over the world. However diverse the projects, they all have one common denominator: a focus on advancing both the individual and the community within a spirit of socio-economical education.”
On November 19, 2014, Close the Gap unveiled the first prototype of DigiTruck at the 10 year anniversary with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Dolce la Hulpe, Belgium. The DigiTruck is a solar-powered, mobile multi-purpose IT unit able to bring ICT innovation and education to rural and vulnerable communities that would have previously been dependent on the electrical grid.
The DigiTruck received such an outstanding positive response from the Close the Gap network that four more DigiTrucks were sponsored on the spot. And the first of these is well underway to bridging the digital divide in the northern Tanzanian region of Moshi, just in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.
This DigiTruck, sponsored by longtime partner Arrow Electronics, is the first of its kind to be constructed IN COUNTRY using a local company and as much material sourced locally as possible.
The first stop for this DigiTruck will be to Neema International to support the TuleeniOrphanage, home to nearly one hundred orphaned and/or vulnerable children. Tuleeni is located in the remote village of Rau in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania.
Pleinlaan 5 / 1050 Brussels / Belgium firstname.lastname@example.org
Close the Gap, Brussels