Refugee Code week webinar

Friday, 22 September 2017

Grant Chou, a Starfish volunteer speaks about his experience, helping the single women refugees from Moria camp, to take part in the training ‘Refugee Code week webinar” which took place at the University of Aegean and was organised by the ChangeMakers Lab.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first when I heard we were helping with a coding class for the people of concern here. I thought what person from Moria Camp is putting coding as the first priority with everything they have to deal with?

When I arrived at the camp, only 9 of the 27 women who showed interest in the class actually stepped onto the bus. It seemed as if they all believed they were coming for general computer lessons and that coding may have been lost in translation. Because the class was to be taught in English, I assessed their language proficiency and received many blank stares and uncomfortable smiles as I introduced the plan for the day. Now I was thinking, my skepticism about this class was justified.

Then it was off to the University of the Aegean, where the class was held, and Vasili Sofiadelis, the man who organized the event, greeted us with open arms and directed us to the classroom. As the women received the long-winded introduction about the coding class and why it was being done I could see the attention and patience of the class waning.

BUT! Once the coding class began, pure magic. The level of engagement and curiosity that filled the room was refreshing and electric. Having just graduated I can say it is not something I had experienced all too often. If you looked across the classroom you would see eyebrows furrowed, intently focused on the screen. Then, maybe a question or two to the teaching aids or their fellow classmate followed by the release of facial tension into a soft smile as they completed the code only to quickly move on to the next task. I asked one woman about her time here and she said she absolutely loved it. She was a medical statistician before she had to flee Syria and this was the kind of work that made her tick. It was something new and exciting and would definitely be back to learn more.

The program they were learning was called Scratch, developed by MIT computer scientists, and their education model aimed to teach as many people as possible by training these women who would then be capable of training others and so on and so forth. They stressed the statistic that those who took these courses had an incredibly high chance of being employed in the country they would get asylum in.

This coding program is essential for the future of the people here because receiving asylum is not the end of the already difficult journey they have endured. They potentially have a lifetime of assimilation ahead of them and so the skills they are learning here can at least do wonders for the employment aspect. This program also integrates the University students as teaching aids and because the relationship between the local and migrant community is quite rocky, this is another bold step to strengthen it.

I am incredibly happy to have been apart of this program and wanted to give a huge shoutout to Vasili Sofiadelis and Starfish Foundation for making it all happen.