Photo: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
With most Houston area students set to begin virtual learning this month, a local organization is working to bring resources to immigrant and refugee children who do not have a computer or internet access.
Culture of Health — Advancing Together, an organization founded by Houston area resident Aisha Siddiqui, is running a laptop drive to try to remedy that situation. The drive focuses on the Gulfton area, just outside the southwest section of the 610 Loop. Needs are high for immigrants in the greater Houston area, just like it is across the country, she said.
Nearly a quarter of immigrants and their American-born children live in poverty, and Hispanic immigrants, in particular, are less likely to have access to a computer or home internet service, according to the New York Times.
“Gulfton is, I think, one of the most diverse zip codes in Harris County, and you have immigrants and refugees from all over the world,” Siddiqui, a Pakistani immigrant herself, said. “My work started a long time ago. CHAT started in 2015, but I have been in this area. My parents used to live there, so I was seeing part of the struggles.”
CHAT did a needs assessment and found that the majority of residents that it serves do not have any devices other than a cell phone. Siddiqui gave the example of a family from Afghanistan that has one laptop at home with four children.
She acknowledged that the drive has gotten off to a slow start. CHAT has received only two laptops, but it continues to work with individuals and other non-profit organizations.
CHAT’s mission is to “foster the health and well-being of immigrant and refugee communities through the education, arts, advocacy and access to care.”
Siddiqui feels that Gulfton is an area that has been ignored and has fallen through the cracks.
“If they’re not ready, they will not be able to learn online. They do not have devices. They do not have internet. They do not know how to navigate the system,” she said. “The whole reason I had in mind to make CHAT that this is a community that is ignored, that has fallen through the cracks.”
The movement comes as Houston ISD is working on a $31 million plan to close the digital divide. According to the district, they have already provided 76,362 devices for students going to virtual education earlier this year and plans to distribute an additional 22,750 additional devices by next month.
Lean more about the CHAT computer drive at http://chattx.org/backtoschool2020/