“I’m recognizing the importance of learning new behavior and beginning to question my future role in society as a result of the leadership demonstrated by your organization. The donation of these new computers has caused me to think about the need for me to reach out to other people in communities around the world and share what I have learned.”
~ Roger B.,Ottawa Mission Client
As “more than a shelter,” The Ottawa Mission
helps Ottawa’s most vulnerable residents manage through difficult times and get back on their feet
. As a volunteer in the Mission’s kitchen for the past six years, I’ve met these people and heard their stories first-hand.>
How fortunate, then, that during its Centennial, IBM helped me help The Mission write a different story – one that’s both heartening and humbling.
"Roger is thriving"
A year ago, Roger was too shy to look anyone in the eye. Yet in a few months he’ll be ready to work with others as a certified electromechanical technician, installing and testing machines with complex hydraulic, pneumatic and electric controls.
Roger’s personal development has come through The Mission’s Essential Skills program, which has helped him learn to listen, give feedback and hold a conversation. His education has come through The Mission’s new Distance Education
modules from George Brown College
, made possible through a Centennial Grant from IBM.
“His story moves you no matter what”
Last June, as part of IBM’s Centennial Celebration of Service
activities, I helped organize a day-long Workforce Skills seminar at The Mission. With the help of its Client Services team, resources from the IBM On Demand Community
and close to 30 generous colleagues and friends, we introduced Mission clients to workplace culture and behaviors, helped them brush up their resumes and practice their interview skills – an activity that for some was entirely new. In the Kitchen, team members served hot meals and prepared hundreds of sandwiches while in the basement, more volunteers sorted through an Everest of donated clothing.
For our efforts, The Mission was awarded a cash grant of $15,000, which it used to replace the aging machines in its computer lab.
The result? “Roger is thriving,” says Jennifer Crawford, Manager of Client Services at The Ottawa Mission. “His story moves you no matter what.”
“We’d never bought 13 computers before”
“We’re over the moon about the new computers,” says Samantha Laprade, Legacy Giving Officer with The Ottawa Mission Foundation. But, she adds, the opportunity did throw them for a loop. “We’d never bought 13 computers before. We were at a bit of a loss as to how to go about it.”
Help came from an unlikely source. Tom Donohue, The Mission’s Chaplain, is also a former systems administrator
with telco provider Telus. With Donohue’s help, The Mission outfitted its computer lab with 13 new Lenovo ThinkCentre M71e towers, each configured with enough processing power, memory and software to meet the needs of The Mission’s now-expanded offerings.
A new world of learning
The new towers open a new world of learning for clients. Now they can study a wide range of topics including bookkeeping, hospitality and tourism management, robotics, geographic information systems and electromechanics – Roger’s current field of study.
The computers also meet a longstanding goal of the Client Services team. “We’d had this in our education proposal for over a year, but the modules weren’t compatible with our old machines,” says Crawford. “The experience would have been extremely tedious to navigate.”
The new experience is exactly the opposite. In a thank-you letter to IBM, Roger writes: “The new computers have transformed the way that I process information and match my preferred learning styles, which are solitary, social and visual. “
A modern approach to adult education
Crawford says the new machines bring The Mission more in line with current trends in adult education. “Almost everything in adult education is through distance learning. We’re bringing opportunities to our clients that the rest of the world already has.” she says. “With the old machines, it felt like ‘poor machines for poor people,’ and that’s something we want to move away from.”
Roger is taking full advantage of the new technology. In his letter, he writes: “The enhanced internet browsing capability enables me to research text, capture it and paste into a speed reader in order to improve my reading recall rate. My friend and I are taking a computer-based electronics technician course that uses the DVD capabilities of the new computers to create a virtual electronics lab simulator on the computer monitors.”
Faster machines mean more sessions for more clients
Crawford adds that because the machines are so fast, clients can finish their courses in half the time. Their reliability means volunteers can lead job and resume skills sessions once a week instead of once a month. “It’s so much less frustrating to have computers that actually work,” she observes. “Even for things as simple as email, clients were asking for help because the computer was so slow. Now, instead of waiting for pages to load, clients can use their time to send emails or look for jobs.”
Roger is seeing additional benefits. In his letter, he continues: “I’m using the new IBM ThinkCentre technology to learn more effectively in school and to become more organized at home. I’m accomplishing more office work in less time and saving natural resources by creating digital notebooks utilizing the professional software that was installed on these new computers.”
Reconnecting with family
The new computers also help clients beyond their education. A new ThinkCentre has been installed in the lobby of The Mission’s Client Services Centre, where clients can access basic Web features like email and social networking.
Laprade says the speedier machines mean clients can make the most of their 15-minute time slots. “Fifteen minutes may not be much to be or you, but that may be the only time clients have to connect with family.”
Part of a bigger picture
Throughout IBM's Centennial year, IBMers in 120 countries donated more than 3.2 million volunteer hours to more than 5,000 projects around the globe.
The Centennial Celebration of Service activities were intended to not only celebrate IBM's long heritage of community involvement, but also to take those activities to the next level — and the more than 1,000 projects which have been started so far this year is evidence of such progress.
Last year at this time, I was proud that IBM valued my dedication to helping Ottawa’s less fortunate residents. Having helped contribute to Roger’s success story, I’m doubly so that my values and IBM’s vision are so closely aligned.