Ethiopian Lab Offers Computer Knowledge in Amharic

The Ethiopian Community in Seattle (ECS) serves all persons of Ethiopian origin by providing help to those in need, and empowers them to live productive lives. With support from the Technology Matching Fund last year, the organization revitalized their computer lab. When asked to reflect on the impact of the grant, Computer Center Coordinator Tefera Gulelat shared these comments: What were the greatest successes of your project? “The ECS computer center has become an invaluable resource for large number of low income people in their quest to learn new technology and to better themselves. They surf the internet for job search, tutorial services, homework help, research their class projects and engaging their friends through social media. It is really heartening to see a good number of senior citizens frequenting our facility.” What were your most difficult challenges? “We were challenged in several fronts when we tried to procure our native Amharic language word processor. The lack of standards in their encoding (ASCII or Unicode) scheme, compatibility with various operating systems and the varying cost made it harder for us to choose among several competing vendors.

 

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn visits the ECS computer center during the Ethiopian New Year.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn visits the ECS computer center during the Ethiopian New Year.

The Ethiopian Community in Seattle (ECS) serves all persons of Ethiopian origin by providing help to those in need,  and empowers them to live productive lives.   With support from the Technology Matching Fund last year, the organization revitalized their computer lab.   When asked to reflect on the impact of the grant, Computer Center Coordinator Tefera Gulelat shared these comments:

What were the greatest successes of your project?

“The ECS computer center has become an invaluable resource for large number of low income people in their quest to learn new technology and to better themselves. They surf the internet for job search, tutorial services, homework help, research their class projects and engaging their friends through social media. It is really heartening to see a good number of senior citizens frequenting our facility.”

What were your most difficult challenges?

“We were challenged in several fronts when we tried to procure our native Amharic language word processor. The lack of standards in their encoding (ASCII or Unicode) scheme, compatibility with various operating systems and the varying cost made it harder for us to choose among several competing vendors. There was also an issue of finding proficient volunteers in the chosen Amharic word processor. After contacting various Ethiopian individuals and organizations, with its known compatibility issues, we settled on the ‘Power Geez’ Amharic word processor.

The other challenge was getting a firm commitment from our various volunteers and keeping them engaged for the duration of the project. We have found that counting mainly on volunteers to teach fixed classes or run core activities will lead to disappointed customers. We had to cancel classes and activities during the volunteer’s absence. To mitigate these shortcomings, we reverted back to using hired hands for tutorials, computer class instructions and computer resource center management.”

Tell us about an individual who participated in this project. 

“Mr. Bosna is a 54 year old immigrant from Ethiopia who recently arrived here in Seattle. He had never used a computer before he walked to our center. He was unemployed at the time and looking for help in acquiring a skill to apply for a job.  He subsequently attended two rounds of our computer training classes. He learned how to use the Microsoft office productivity programs. He was also taught how to write in his native language, Amharic, using the Amharic word processor. He was able to prepare his own resume and edit it any time he wants.  He createsd his own email account and sends out electronic messages. He has since applied for several jobs online by attaching his resume.

“The computer center has also become indispensable for several low income families that include a family of six that arrived here in Seattle recently.  The parents brought their children for after school programs, for homework help, research and to use the computer for general purpose. We were thankful for giving a  helping hand to those with limited resources.”

Although the grant officially ended in December, the ECS computer center continues to offer beginning computer classes, ESL, homework help and resume and online job assistance. For more information contact Tefera Gulelat at tefera_gulelat@yahoo.com or visit ecseattle.org.